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Covid lockdown UK: First day of freedom sees shopping sales surge

Scream if you want to go faster out of lockdown: First day of freedom sees shopping sales surge by up to 500 per cent of a normal day, and hairdressers, theme parks and beauty salons reopen

  • People in England and Wales bounded out of the third Covid lockdown as shopping sales soared yesterday
  • Spending in hairdressers increased by a staggering 500% as Britons queued to get their manes cut
  • An estimated seven million customers filled town centres with the number of shoppers up 146% on last week   
  • Scenes of liberation brought renewed calls from Tory backbenchers for lockdown easing to be accelerated 

People in England and Wales bounded out of the third national lockdown yesterday as shopping sales surged, theme parks open and spending in hairdressers soar a staggering 500 per cent on the first day of freedom.

High streets across the country roared back into life, with masked shoppers scrambling to join queues outside toy shops, fashion stores and other non-essential retailers which have spent the last four months shuttered.  

The number of people in shopping destinations by 3pm yesterday was more than twice the level of the previous Monday and was just over a quarter lower than 2019 levels, retail data company Springboard said.

Spending in hairdressers and barbers in England soared by 500 per cent and nearly tripled in shops in the morning compared with a normal Monday pre-Covid, financial app Revolut found.

Though pubs got off to a slower start, spending was up 150 per cent on normal pre-lockdown levels just before lunchtime, with Romford and Chester seeing the biggest increases, the Guardian reported. 

An estimated seven million customers filled town centres yesterday, with the number of shoppers up by 146 per cent on Monday last week and by 481 per cent on the same day last year by 5pm. And spending could be back to pre-pandemic levels within as little as two months, said analysts Kantar. 

The pent-up demand meant many started queuing outside shops before 7am on ‘Bounce Back Monday’. Meanwhile, there was a sigh of relief from families who have exhausted going for walks, baking and watching TV as theme parks and zoos have reopened. Thorpe Park in Surrey was among those that welcomed visitors.

Spending this week is predicted to be £100million higher compared to the end of the first lockdown last year, said Kantar. It comes as a study by the Centre for Retail Research suggested £4.54billion will be spent this week.

But there was a roller coaster of emotions as scenes of joy and liberation yesterday brought renewed calls for the brutal national shutdown to be eased faster. Former Tory Cabinet minister David Jones said it should be sped up as deaths were ‘very low’ and scientists suggest the UK is ‘near herd immunity’. 

However, Conservative ex-Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers said it was ‘frustrating to have to wait for each roadmap date but the rise in cases in Europe shows we are not out of the woods yet’.  

People react on the Stealth ride as Thorpe Park reopens in London as the Covid-19 lockdown is eased on April 12, 2021

Kelly Boad, owner of Hair & Beauty Gallery, gives Sue Butcher a haircut as non-essential businesses reopen as coronavirus lockdown restrictions begin to ease in Warwick, Britain, April 12, 2021

Shoppers pack Oxford Street, London, as Coronavirus lockdown measures were further eased across England, with shops reopening along with hairdressers and salons, gyms, spas, zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centres

Two men embrace amongst people drinking outside in Soho as non essential retail and pubs reopened today for the first time in four months

Massive crowds were drawn to the London’s most famous shopping street after months of only being able to shop online

Aside from the masks which differ from the usual scenes on Oxford Street in London, the shopping street was packed

Early morning shoppers run to queue outside the JD Sports store in Oxford Street, London, desperate to get inside first

People rush to get to shops on Oxford Street as they reopen after coronavirus restrictions ease after long months of closure

Shoppers were seen jogging in an effort to get to the front of the lines to get instore first as the lockdown was released

Shoppers at Primark, in Birmingham, as England takes another step back towards normality after months of tough lockdown

The ‘Glorious Twelfth’: What can you do from today? (And what do we still have to wait for?) 

  • All non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen, as will hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms and swimming pools, with no group classes allowed.
  • Pubs, restaurants and cafes can reopen for outdoor service, but will have to wait until at least May 17 to serve customers indoors.
  • Mass testing to be available, with everyone urged to take two tests per week.
  • New care home rules will allow residents to have two visitors, rather than just one.
  • Self-catering accommodation, including campsites, can reopen, but hotels and B&Bs must remain closed until at least May 17.
  • Shops will be allowed to stay open until 10pm, six days a week, in a bid to reduce crowding.
  • The maximum number of people allowed to attend weddings and wakes will rise from six to 15.
  • Public buildings can reopen, as can outdoor attractions such as theme parks and zoos.
  • Controversial hospitality rules such as the 10pm curfew and requirement to buy a ‘substantial meal’ with alcohol will be dropped.
  • Clothes shops will be allowed to reopen their changing rooms for the first time in more than a year.

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.  

Consultancy Retail Economics explained that many households are sitting on savings accumulated in the lockdown that they are keen to spend. ‘Shoppers are eager to get back out to the high street,’ it said. 

‘Many households are in a much stronger financial position as a result of cancelled holidays, fewer nights out and less commuting.’ However, Boris Johnson urged everyone to ‘behave responsibly’ amid concerns the easing of restrictions will spread Covid-19.

But there was euphoria that shops, hairdressers and pubs faced huge demand. Many retailers, including Primark and Currys PC World, extended trading hours to allow people to shop safely.

Meanwhile, Debenhams reopened 97 of its stores for a closing down sale before it shuts for good next month.

And John Lewis’s executive director Pippa Wicks said: ‘It was fantastic to welcome customers back into our shops again and to see so many people excited to be out and about again.’  

Footfall at all the UK’s retail destinations had risen 116 per cent by 3pm on Monday compared to the same time a week ago, according to figures from Springboard. 

Shopping centre footfall rose 176 per cent, while high street footfall rose 144 per cent, the figures show. Meanwhile, retail parks saw a 5.6 per cent drop in footfall.

Across all destinations footfall was still down 26 per cent compared to Monday April 15, 2019. It rose 410 per cent compared to Monday April 13, 2020 – the height of the first lockdown.  

And Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said it was a ‘big day’ for reopening businesses, and that many were ‘excited and desperate’ to welcome customers back.

‘It’s a big day for the country and it’s a big day for all of these businesses reopening their doors today,’ she told Sky News. ‘They are very excited and desperate to welcome their customers back (with) the focus on safety.’

Ms Dickinson said that retailers were now used to preparing to reopen their doors, having experienced the process during previous lockdowns, but added that customers also had a ‘part to play’.

‘Because they’ve been through this process before… they would have been ready the last week or the week before, and are just keen and enthusiastic to welcome us back,’ she said.

‘Members of the public have a part to play in following the signage, the guidance that we get given queueing if we need to… and all of the safety features that are in place. We have a role too.’

Scores of youngsters started gathering outside Foot Locker on Oxford Street from 7am with the store forced to open earlier than it’s initial scheduled time of 10am. 

‘I’m after socks and jumpers and am going to buy as much as I can because during this lockdown, I’ve managed to save a bit of money.’

Lesley Black, 47 who was accompanied by her daughter Demi, 20 said: ‘Between us we’ve spent about £200 on underwear and pyjamas.  

‘It feels wonderful to be back in the shops and we’re going to spend the whole day shopping. Both of us love spending a day at the shops and we’ve really missed it during the lockdown. Luckily, I’ve got some money saved so I now plan to spend it all.’

Primark appeared extremely popular in other parts of the country too, with shoppers queuing outside the branch in Truro, Cornwall, an hour ahead of its scheduled re-opening.

Cleaner Georgina Okie, 48, queued for 45 minutes to be one of the first to shop in Primark in Manchester city centre.

Queues massed on Carnaby Street outside shoe shop Size, where limited edition trainers are often sold to customers

As shops reopen people camp out to buy trainers at shops in the Arndale Centre, Manchester, in an effort to get in first

People queue to enter Selfridges department store on Oxford Street in London as restrictions eased at last

Customers queue to enter a re-opened Primark clothes shop in Liverpool, north west England, as coronavirus restrictions are eased across the country following England’s third national lockdown on April 12

Shoppers queue in crowd control barriers outside of a  Primark store in Stoke on Trent on April 12

Shoppers queue outside a branch of Zara in central Manchester, Monday, April 12

Two women sit on a bench with bags of shopping as non-essential retail reopens on April 12, in Cardiff, Wales, where restrictions on non-essential retail has also been lifted

Members of the public seen walking with their shopping on April 12, in London

People walk at Oxford Street, as the coronavirus restrictions ease, in London, April 12

Shopping footfall to at least double this week  

Analysts Springboard think the reopening of retail stores will see owners able to capitalise on the pent up demand amongst shoppers to return to stores.

They said: ‘This pent up demand is evidenced by Springboard’s footfall data for the UK which identified that despite the lockdown with all essential stores closed, activity in UK destinations has increased from week to week for the past five weeks.

‘We know that online spending has increased hugely over the past year with over a half of all spending on non-food products going online in January. 

‘This increased shift online was not necessarily due the inherent attractiveness of online versus stores, but a result of the lack of virtually any other opportunity to shop for non-food products (unless you are able to purchase what you need from food stores, health food shops or pet stores).

‘On the back of this, when non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality reopens in England from 12 April we are forecasting that footfall across the UK will increase rise by up to +47.9% in the first trading week. 

‘This will equate to an increase in footfall of +128.5% from the same week in 2020 when we were three weeks into Lockdown 1, but it will still be -61.8% below the 2019 level.’

Security had to be brought in after scuffles broke out with enthusiastic shoppers eager to get in.

One security guard who was standing by the store with a guard dog told MailOnline: ‘We’ve had some scuffles and people banging on the windows of the store.  

‘It’s mainly kids who are after a particular brand of trainers. But there is a lot of excitement that the shops have reopened. Hopefully the novelty of it will soon wear off.’  

Transport for London said demand for Tube and bus travel from the start of service until 10am on Monday was up 18 per cent and 15 per cent respectively compared with the same period last week.

The number of passengers using Tube stations near shopping centres such as Oxford Street and Westfield Stratford City between 11am and noon was up 125 per cent. 

Simeon Banks, 22 who had just purchased two pairs of Nike Jordan’s on Oxford Street said: ‘I collect and resell trainers. While I do it online I prefer going into shops to touch and feel them.

‘I’m happy that the shops have opened because it’s more fun buying trainers in person.’

Jessica Palmerston, 35 from Walthamstow, East London who arrived at Primark on Oxford Street soon after it opened for business told MailOnline: ‘I have been waiting for Primark to reopen for the past three months.

‘I hate shopping online, I love going into this shop because it’s a real buzz when you see the latest fashions and people getting excited about clothes.’

She revealed that she had bought an assortment of socks, underwear and tee-shirts for herself and her children. 

Ms Palmerston added: ‘Pri-Mani is the best and it’s wonderful to be able to return here. There’s nothing like filling up your basket with lots of treats; we deserve it because we’ve suffered enough.’

Nala Bee, 25 arrived at the store with her friend Ryan C.

She said: ‘We got up at 7am to get here before it gets too busy. I’ve really missed the shops not being open. I hate online shopping. I love going shopping, try things on and have a bit of fun. It’s my therapy, it’s what makes me happy. 

She said: ‘I am so happy the shops are open. It feels like the first step back to normality. I was desperate to come and shop and buy some jeans. I felt really safe.’

Student Natasha Larkin, 17, queued to spend £15 on gym wear and shorts at Primark in Manchester. She said: ‘It feels great to just walk into a shop and buy something. I have missed it so much. It gives you something to do. It feels a great day ‘.

Cleaner Mauro Silva, 28, also queued up to buy £5 slippers at Primark. He said: ‘It’s cold and I need them. 

‘I had finished work so it feels fantastic to just go into a shop again.’  

Pubs and restaurants in London’s West End enjoyed a lunch time rush, as customers made the most of the chance to sit and drink outdoors, despite the chilly weather.

The busy streets at Oxford Circus as shoppers return to central London after months of lockdown

Student Natasha Larkin, 17, queued to spend £15 on gym wear and shorts at Primark in Manchester

Cleaner Georgina Okie, 48, queued for 45 minutes to be one of the first to shop in Primark in Manchester city centre

Queues outside Primark in Bristol as shops reopen after the third lockdown’s restrictions are gradually eased

Shoppers queue outside a Nike store in central London as coronavirus restrictions are eased across the country on April 12

The sheer number of people queuing for Primark in Bristol looks like it made it difficult for social distancing

Deirdre Peachey, 64 had travelled from Sevenoaks, Kent for a day out in the capital accompanied by her daughter Erin, 42 and her grandchildren Charlie, 6 and Eva 5.

Ms Peachey said that they had visited Hamleys to buy toys for the children while she bought material at the Liberty store on Regent Street, which was followed by lunch.

She added: ‘It’s a bit chilly sitting out here but it’s wonderful to be able to shop again. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. I’ve felt quite safe being out and about and it’s very reassuring to see people taking all the precautions required.

‘I feel as if I’ve been locked up for the past year and it’s just great to be able to go out and do normal things.’

Erin said: ‘I love coming into Central London to shop or have a meal and have really missed it. I’m delighted that I’ve been able to do this today because it feels that life is slowly returning to normal.

‘The kids have absolutely loved it. Charlie wanted a toy fish while Eva got a lot of other stuff. They’re really happy to be on their holidays and have a day out at the shops.’

In Chinatown, customers queued for up to 45 minutes for a table. Dozens were arranged outside restaurants that line

the area’s main walkway with customers braving the cold to wolf down an assortment of delicacies.

Si Ling, who works at the Four Seasons restaurant said: ‘We’ve been very busy even though it’s not really weather for sitting out. The past few months have been very hard because not only has business been bad but so has morale.

‘Things are looking up again and it makes me really happy to see customers returning and enjoying our food.’

Many pubs had set up outdoor areas in the Soho area where customers enjoyed a pint or a drink outdoors.

Shoppers on Oxford Street, London, as England takes another step back towards normality with the further easing of lockdown restrictions

Facilities permitted to reopen in the latest easing of lockdown include pubs and restaurants who can serve outside, non-essential shops, indoor gyms and swimming pools, nail salons and hairdressers, outdoor amusements and zoos

Shoppers queue on Oxford Street in London as Boris Johnson warned the nation to ‘behave responsibly’

These lucky shoppers managed to get inside Primark before many others in Birmingham and quickly began buying clothes

This is the first time in months pubs and shops across England can open up fully after the Prime Minister launched lockdown 3

Brian Fowler, 26 who was sipping a pint in a plastic glass beamed: ‘It’s a great feeling to be able to buy a pint in a pub and have a chat with my mate.

‘I know the pubs are not fully open yet, because you can’t drink inside, but it feels as if we are heading in the right direction.

‘I’m not a big drinker but I’ve really missed the social aspect of going to the pub. The last few months have been very boring as I don’t enjoy sitting in doors drinking. The weather’s not great so it is a pity that we can’t go inside and prop up the bar.’  

 Boris Johnson had warned the nation to ‘behave responsibly’ while lockdown restrictions on normal lives and the economy were eased again on the next step to freedom.

The Prime Minister urged caution during the ‘major step forward’ as a scientist advising the Government warned the rules must be followed to minimise a possible rebound in case numbers.  

‘I’m sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it’s a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed,’ Mr Johnson said.

‘I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’ to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme.’ It will be the third in a series of easings since the third national lockdown was legally imposed in England on January 6.

The next significant date is May 17, when socialising indoors will be permitted under the ‘rule of six’ – if the Prime Minister judges that the vaccination programme is safely breaking the link between infections and deaths.

After three months of full national lockdown, the Government said on Sunday that a further seven people had died in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test. Another 1,730 lab-confirmed cases were also announced.

Around 61 per cent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to official figures suggesting that more than 32 million people have received a jab. More than 14 per cent have had both doses. 

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