According to market research firm Springboard, the number of consumers on Britain's high streets plummeted by 2.6 percent over the weekend as the highly contagious Omicron type of coronavirus kept many at home. Springboard claimed that the number of people out shopping in downtown London fell by 8.5 percent on December 18 and 19, compared to a week earlier. Outside of the capital, footfall declined by 6.4 percent. Footfall increased by 3.4 percent, 0.5 percent, and 4.7 percent in smaller market towns, shopping centers, and retail parks, respectively.
Separate estimates from the hospitality trade association UKHospitality revealed a 40% drop in weekend takings and a bleak outlook for New Year's Eve. On Nov. 25, British authorities expressed their alarm about the Omicron version for the first time. Two weeks later, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tightened COVID-19 restrictions in England, advising individuals to work from home, wear masks in public, and rely on certificates of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to help halt the spread.
The Omicron variation has raised worries among UK residents who want to spend Christmas with their family, especially following last year's events, with the new variant potentially jeopardizing this. As a result, in-person Christmas shopping has become more cautious in recent weeks, with high streets being less crowded than planned. On Sunday, around 25% fewer individuals are expected to visit UK retail outlets than on the same day in 2019. It was, nevertheless, up roughly 30% over the previous year. Despite this, shops continued to benefit from government assistance to help mitigate the effects of the epidemic last year, whereas companies are now more vulnerable.
To encourage customers back to the high street, major businesses such as Halfords and Harrods have moved their Christmas deals earlier. However, it is unlikely to draw large crowds since many people choose to shun the new variation and spend Christmas with their families and friends. Following the constraints of the previous year, spending Christmas with family is taking precedence over Christmas shopping.
Many people have become accustomed to purchasing online as a result of the epidemic, and shopping in person is no longer considered as worth the risk when there is such a convenient alternative. Although businesses benefited from increased foot traffic in November and early December, they will not profit from an uptick in pre-Christmas buying in the last week, as was the case before the epidemic. This will irritate merchants that had planned for a boom in Christmas shopping in 2021 after last year, which now appears to be somewhat quiet.
The majority of Americans still prefer to conduct their Christmas food shopping in person, but out-of-town shopping malls are outperforming city-center businesses. This is due to larger stores with greater ventilation, the convenience of traveling by automobile, and the avoidance of congested city centers, all of which assist in reducing the chance of contracting Covid-19. Despite a change in customer behavior, supermarkets in the United Kingdom are unlikely to be harmed due to their market dominance. Whether customers purchase online, visit out-of-town shopping malls, or visit city centers, the demand is sent to the same set of businesses.