UK shopper numbers rose last week but outlook bleak

Slideshow ( 2 images )

LONDON (Reuters) - The number of shoppers at British retail outlets rose by 6.2% last week versus the previous week, helped by many schools being on half-term holiday, market researcher Springboard said on Monday.

But it warned the recovery will be short lived with new COVID-19 restrictions set to close all non-essential stores in England for a month from Nov. 5.

Springboard said shopper numbers, or footfall, in the week to Oct. 31 increased by 5.2% on high streets, 3.5% in retail parks and 11% in shopping centres compared to the previous week.

Footfall on a year-on-year basis was down 32.5%, a marginal improvement from the week before when it was down 32.9%.

“The school half-term break last week delivered a boost to footfall in UK retail destinations, with a noticeable increase from the week before despite a significant decrease in footfall in Wales (down 53.7%) as a consequence of the firebreak (lockdown),” said Springboard director Diane Wehrle.

She said the UK government’s announcement on Saturday of a second national lockdown for England from Thursday was likely to boost footfall Monday to Wednesday as consumers try to make essential purchases and buy for Christmas before all non-essential retail stores close for a month.

“Over the next month the results will look very different, with an annual decline that could reach down 80%,” she warned.

Reporting by James Davey, Editing by Paul Sandle and Susan Fenton