UK shopper numbers rise for seventh week out of eight

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FILE PHOTO: Shoppers wearing face masks at a market in Cambridge

LONDON (Reuters) - The number of people heading out to shops across Britain rose by 7% in the week to March 13 from a week earlier, the seventh rise in eight weeks despite a national lockdown, market researcher Springboard said on Monday.

Shopper numbers, or footfall, climbed 5.7% on UK high streets, was up 6.9% at retail parks, and up 9.8% at shopping centres.

The higher numbers were possibly the result of parents of schoolage children having some additional time to shop following a widespread return to schools on March 8, Springboard said.

"The steady increase in visits to high streets and shopping centres delivers further evidence of the degree of pent up demand amongst consumers to return to stores," said Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard.

England entered a third national lockdown on Jan. 4 to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases that threatened to overwhelm the health system.

The rules in England closed schools to most pupils, people were told to work from home where possible, and all hospitality and non-essential shops were closed. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland imposed similar measures.

Some essential shops such as food outlets and home improvement retailers were allowed to remain open.

Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a roadmap out of the latest pandemic-related lockdown.

Schools in England reopened for in-person lessons last week and non-essential shops are scheduled to open again on April 12.

Springboard said footfall across Britain was still 52.7% lower than during the same week last year.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Bernadette Baum)