Millions flock to shops on first weekend since lockdown lifted

Jimmy Nsubuga
·2-min read

Watch: Shoppers fill high streets on busy Saturday

Millions have flocked to high streets in England on the first Saturday since lockdown was lifted, with one shopper saying it was the “busiest it had been in 10 months”.

People filled town and city centres across the country as they made the most of the relaxed COVID-19 restrictions under the new tiering system, which came into force on Wednesday.

One shopper in London’s Oxford Street tweeted: “Well what a turnaround. Just been out in Oxford Street and it is the busiest I have seen it in 10 months.

“Great to see, but also feels weird being surrounded by so many people.”

Another person added: “I don’t think I’ve seen Oxford street so busy. Queues everywhere, people barging as you walk. Madness.”

Shoppers queue outside Debenhams on Oxford Street in London on the first weekend following the end of the second national lockdown in England, with coronavirus restrictions being relaxed. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Shoppers queue outside Debenhams on Oxford Street (Getty)
Shoppers outside Topshop on Oxford Street in London on the first weekend following the end of the second national lockdown in England, with coronavirus restrictions being relaxed. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Shoppers outside Topshop on Oxford Street (Getty)

Joining them in the capital was London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who took the time to take selfies with people.

He said: “It’s quite clear speaking to shopkeepers, businesses and those in retail, they’ve had a horrendous nine months, they’re keen to make sure this golden month and this golden quarter they can make up some of the ground lost.

“They’ve seen the collapse of international tourism, the collapse of domestic tourism, and that’s why they really need our support.

“Unless we support our shops we can’t be surprised if, due to a combination of Covid and lack of business, shops close and people lose their jobs.”

Khan said it was important people continued to follow the rules, with the majority of England under Tier 2 and 3 of the new restrictions, which limit social contact between households but allow non-essential stores to open.

A shopper wearing a face mask strikes a pose on Regent Street in London, England, on December 4, 2020. London has returned to so-called Tier 2 or 'high alert' coronavirus restrictions since the end of the four-week, England-wide lockdown on Wednesday, meaning a reopening of non-essential shops and hospitality businesses as the festive season gets underway. Rules under all three of England's tiers have been strengthened from before the November lockdown, however, with pubs and restaurants most severely impacted. In London's West End, Oxford Street and Regent Street were both busy with Christmas shoppers this afternoon, meanwhile, with the retail sector hoping for a strong end to one of its most difficult years. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A shopper wearing a face mask strikes a pose on Regent Street (Getty)
A shopper wearing a face mask crosses Oxford Circus in London, England, on December 4, 2020. London has returned to so-called Tier 2 or 'high alert' coronavirus restrictions since the end of the four-week, England-wide lockdown on Wednesday, meaning a reopening of non-essential shops and hospitality businesses as the festive season gets underway. Rules under all three of England's tiers have been strengthened from before the November lockdown, however, with pubs and restaurants most severely impacted. In London's West End, Oxford Street and Regent Street were both busy with Christmas shoppers this afternoon, meanwhile, with the retail sector hoping for a strong end to one of its most difficult years. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Oxford Circus in London (Getty)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2020/12/02: People walk past a Social Distancing sign on Oxford Street. Thousands of people poured into West End stores as England eased its month-long lockdown. (Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Oxford Street was very busy on Saturday (Getty)

It came as Primark defended itself against accusations opening 24 hours a day could cause a third wave of COVID-19 infections.

A spokesperson for the clothing store said it had "rigorous health and safety measures in place, including a strict social distancing protocol and limits on the number of customers allowed in store".

Saturday coincided with Small Business Saturday, an annual event which takes place on the first Saturday of December.

Now in its eighth year in the UK, a record 17.6 million people supported small independent businesses on last year’s Small Business Saturday, spending an estimated £800 million.

With less than three weeks until Christmas, shoppers are being urged to shop locally in a push to save small businesses from financial ruin.

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