Footfall up 84% as Londoners flock to shops during first weekend since lockdown

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Footfall was up 84% in the West End as Londoners flocked to shops during the first weekend since lockdown was lifted.

Thousands of shoppers flooded Oxford Street and Regent Street on Saturday and Sunday as traffic was banned from the roads between 10am to 9pm and the pavements were widened to help boost the struggling retail sector.

The West End has been largely deserted since March apart from a brief recovery during the summer.

But over the weekend footfall was almost 85% higher than the week of June 15, when all non-essential shops were given the green light to re-open after the first lockdown.

The figures, from business group New West End Company, show a rise of 136% week on week.

Chief Executive Jace Tyrrell said: “After a bleak November, it is enormously encouraging to see our customers returning to enjoy the festive delights of London’s West End.

“With the tremendous news of the vaccine now available it is vital Londoners continue to support our battered retail and hospitality businesses over the coming months and the one in ten Londoners who work in the West End.”

While the number of people visiting London’s most famous shopping district almost doubled compared with November, it was still 40% lower than last year and pubs and restaurants continued to struggle with Tier 2 restrictions, which ban mixing outside of households.

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Shoppers were also warned to abide by social distancing rules or the capital could risk being plunged into Tier 3 just as the number of Covid cases appears to be plateauing.

Harrods, which started its winter sale before Christmas for the first time in its 171-year history, saw huge crowds flock to the store.

Four people were arrested as hordes of shoppers, many of them not wearing masks or maintaining social distancing, tried to enter the Knightsbridge department store.

Westfield Stratford also saw large crowds queuing outside stores.

But anti-lockdown protesters, not wearing face coverings or abiding by social distacing rules, were also filmed protesting outside.

One berated the queues of shoppers shouting: “Do you not see what’s going on,” through a megaphone, while others chanted “freedom” outside the shopping centre.

Rachael Robathan, leader of Westminster Council, said: “It is so important to make sure people can feel really safe about coming back. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a visit to Regents Street so I want people to feel really confident to come back, move around safely and adhere to the guidelines with their families and shop and enjoy everything which is so wonderful and vibrant about the West End.”

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