Coronavirus: Shoppers flock to stores as lockdown looms

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Shoppers in England are flocking to make last-minute buys ahead of lockdown, which will see non-essential retailers shut for a month.

The number of shoppers on Tuesday was up 19% compared with the same day last week, industry figures show.

Footfall was sharply higher in shopping centres and retail parks, according to the retail data firm Springboard.

It said that there had "clearly been panic buying" as people rush to buy Christmas presents before shops close.

It comes amid reports of lengthy queues outside stores such as Ikea, Primark, Zara and The Card Factory, with some shoppers venting their frustration at the long waits on social media.

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Clothes shops and card retailers are among those non-essential retailers who will have to shut their doors for the month-long lockdown from Thursday 5 November.

Retailers such as John Lewis, Currys PC World and toy chain the Entertainer have all extended their opening hours in order to cope with the surge in demand ahead of the new restrictions.

Gary Grant, boss of the Entertainer, told the BBC that it was "just like Christmas". His 173 shops are extending their hours until 7pm or 8pm from 5.30pm and expect brisk trading right up until Wednesday night.

Shopping centres in particular have seen a big rise in the number of customers through their doors, with a 19.9% increase on Tuesday. High Streets and retail parks followed with a 19.1% and 18.4% uplift.

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image captionThere were queues outside Selfridges in London

'I need to get out there'

Chris Geaves, the boss of Sovereign Centros - which operates shopping centres such as the MetroCentre complex in Gateshead, said its sites had been "incredibly busy" in the last few days.

"With lockdown from tomorrow, people have thought: 'Crikey, I need to get out there shopping'," he said.

"It's very positive and anecdotally, footfall has been strong, with big brands really having strong sales over the last few days."

Mr Geaves said that footfall at the MetroCentre last week was around 250,000, up 30% week-on-week, although still lower than 2019 figures for the same time of year.

Springboard also pointed out that although footfall in England had been boosted recently by last-minute shoppers, overall it still remains more than 10% down on the same period in 2019.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said footfall had risen above 2019 levels for the first time in the pandemic.

"Despite essential stores remaining open during the lockdown there clearly has been panic buying, as footfall in retail parks on Monday and Tuesday actually rose from the same two days last year.

"Even in high streets and shopping centres footfall has strengthened, which is very likely due to shoppers buying Christmas presents early before stores close on Wednesday for a month."

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