High Streets busy with thousands of shoppers on third day shops reopen

Non-stop SHOP! High Streets throng with thousands of shoppers desperate to browse or buy on third day non-essential stores are open doors after lockdown

  • Pictures show high streets still heaving with shoppers as country continues to enjoy lockdown rules easing
  • Onlookers in Newcastle city centre described how the main high street was busier than most Christmas Eves
  • It comes as non-essential retail stores were permitted to open on Monday after enduring months of closures

Thousands of shoppers flooded Newcastle’s high street today as Britons continue to enjoy the relaxation of lockdown rules. 

Pictures showed Northumberland Street – the city’s main shopping thoroughfare – was absolutely jam packed today as shoppers flocked to the city centre in huge numbers.

Large crowds were pictured on the main shopping street, with little social distancing in place as people jostled to visit their favourite stores.

It comes after all non-essential retail stores was allowed to reopen from Monday giving high streets across the country a much-needed boost.

As well as shops, hairdressers, beauty salons and gyms were all also allowed to welcome back customers after months of lockdown.

One shocked onlooker in Newcastle said: ‘It’s crazy. It looks like it normally does on Christmas Eve. 

Crowds of shoppers pack Northumberland Street in Newcastle this afternoon as people continue to flock back to high streets as the Government’s latest step out of lockdown allowed all non-essential retail stores to reopen on Monday after lockdown

Shocked onlookers said the scenes resembled hectic Christmas shopping sprees that would take place before the pandemic

Footfall figures suggest on the first day of reopening, Newcastle City Centre was busier than the same day in 2019 pre-Covid

Still banned – 

Until May 17 at the earliest: Gatherings of up to 30 people outdoors, with the rule of six and two-household rule indoors; pubs and restaurants will reopen indoors; and controlled indoor events of up to 1,000 people or 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, will be permitted. 

Outdoor events will be allowed to have a capacity of 50 per cent or 4,000 people, whichever is lower; while special provisions will be made for large, outdoor, seated venues where crowds can be spaced out, with up to 10,000 people or 25 per cent of total seated capacity, whichever is lower.

Up to 30 people will be allowed to attend weddings, receptions, funerals, and commemorative events, including wakes. Indoor gatherings like exercise classes will be given the go ahead. 

Until June 21 at the earliest: All legal limits on social contact will be lifted and nightclubs reopened.  

‘I couldn’t believe how busy it was. It’s good to see people back out on the high street again but there was no social distancing at all.’

According to the Newcastle Chronicle, footfall in the city centre on Monday was 13 per cent higher than on the equivalent day in 2019. 

As a whole, footfall figures for the north and Yorkshire saw a 73 per cent increase in footfall across high streets, retail parks and shopping centres and a 245 per cent increase when compared to the same day last year, according to figures from Springboard.

Meanwhile, in central London, footfall increased by 123 per cent on last week, while the south west and south east saw an increase of 87 per cent and 82 per cent respectively.

In total across the UK, high streets saw an increase of 263 per cent when compared to the same day last year, with shopping centres seeing an increase of 298 per cent while retail parks saw an increase of 191 per cent.

However, footfall levels have yet to hit pre-pandemic volumes, with high street figures down by 29 per cent when compared to the same day in 2019.

Shopping centres were also down by 25 per cent but, surprisingly, retail parks saw an increase in footfall of 2.2 per cent yesterday compared to 2019. 

The reopening of high streets is the latest step on the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown which also means pubs, restaurants and cafes can reopen for outdoor service – but they will have to wait until at least May 17 to serve customers indoors.

Shops have been permitted to stay open six days a week until 10pm to allow for stores to reduce overcrowding while shoppers can visit when it’s quieter.

Ahead of their reopening on Monday – dubbed the Glorious Twelfth – many shoppers were pictured queuing outside high street stores across the country including Primark branches and JD Sports as certain retailers announced in-store deals to entice customers back.

Keen shoppers arrived well in advance of yesterday morning’s special 7am reopening time at several of Primark’s huge stores.

The retail giant has extended opening hours for the first initial week in an effort to recoup profits lost over the pandemic. 

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson yesterday said: ‘While footfall may not yet have returned to pre-pandemic levels, retailers have been glad to welcome customers back into stores on high streets, and in retail parks and shopping centres.

‘It’s great to see everyone playing their part in making the shopping experience a positive one for everyone, with retailers going the extra mile to make sure queues are managed well, social distancing is maintained, and face coverings are worn.

Footfall marked a significant improvement on last month. Pictured: shoppers queue outside Primark store in Stoke on Trent

Shoppers queue outside Primark in Norwich as England sees easing of lockdown restrictions

‘Monday was the first step in the recovery of both retail and the wider economy.’

People were quick to welcome the return of busy high streets on social media as the country eases back to normality.

One wrote: ‘Sale town is buzzing. No more eerie silence! So good to see the cafés and coffee shops busy.’

Another from Liverpool added: ‘So did my walk though the town centre with Bella this morning.

‘Roads busy with the school run, non-essential shops open, market traders setting up was lovely to see stuff moving in the right direction. Roll on the 26th for the pub now.’

Robert Downes, from Greater Manchester, added: ‘Great to see my local high streets starting to look a bit more like normal again – not crazy busy but sensible, exponential progress.’

Meanwhile, Jonathan Pascoe, who runs the town centre’s Cornish Bakehouse chain in Wiltshire, told Planet Rock radio it’s ‘brilliant’ that local shops ‘are back’

Shoppers pictured queuing outside newly reopened shops in Cardiff city centre as lockdown restrictions continue to ease

With social distancing rules still in place, many shoppers had to queue outside stores for their turn as people proved they were keen to support their high streets. Pictured: Shoppers return to the high street in the Kent town of Gravesend yesterday

He said: ‘The last year or so has been the worst that most businesses have ever had,’ he added.

‘Hopefully we’re now ‘on the up’ with the easing of restrictions and we can hopefully go back to some normality.

‘It would be nice to get to a place where we don’t have to wear masks and we don’t have to be hidden behind screens, but I can’t see that happening anytime soon.’

Yesterday, Boris Johnson urged the nation to ‘exercise restraint’ after crowds queued outside shops and drinkers packed into bars, restaurants and town centres to toast the latest easing of Covid restrictions. 

He said: ‘Clearly yesterday people have been able to go to the pub, to go shopping, get a haircut and so on, and that’s great. 

‘The numbers are down, of infections and hospitalisations and deaths. But it is very important for everyone to understand that the reduction in these numbers has not been achieved by the vaccination programme – it’s the lockdown that has been overwhelmingly important in delivering this improvement in the pandemic. 

‘And so, yes of course the vaccination programme has helped, but the bulk of the work in reducing the disease has been done by the lockdown. 

‘So, as we unlock the result will inevitably be that we will see more infection, and sadly more hospitalisations and deaths and people have just got to understand that.’

Some 14 million pub bookings have been made in the stampede to secure beer gardens for the weeks ahead as the country looks towards brighter weather and loosed restrictions. 

Thousands of drinkers were seen flocking to their usual hangouts, albeit with outdoor seating, in London Manchester and other major cities yesterday afternoon as they continued to enjoy the return of pubs.

The next stage out of lockdown, step three, is due to come into effect on May 17 when the rule of six will be dropped outdoors and social distancing rules will be reviewed by Government officials.

Soft play centres, hotels and cinemas may also reopen from May 17 if all goes to plan and two households will be permitted to meet indoors.

The Government’s fourth step on the road out of lockdown is expected to come in to effect on June 21 when all rules on social contact will be dropped.

Restrictions on large events will also be lifted and the remaining hospitality businesses will be allowed to reopen. 

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