Britain’s retail consortium revealed on Friday that restrictions imposed to contain the outbreak of the Omicron mutant have wiped out much of the recent revival of traditional stores.
Much of the progress made in late 2021 faded during “December as Omicron infections surged, while new guidelines on working from home prevented many from shopping, especially in towns and downtowns,” said Coalition Executive Director Helen Dickinson.
The coalition added – in a statement – “However, while demand (for shops) has recorded a moderate decline compared to previous months, it is still above the levels of other major European economies, as the country avoided some of the stricter restrictions imposed elsewhere.”
The number of shoppers in British stores decreased by 18.6% last December, compared to the past two years, or before the outbreak of the pandemic, according to the same statement.
“People’s footfall last December turned out to be a difficult year for traditional stores, which recorded a drop in footfall by a third, compared to pre-pandemic levels,” Dickinson said.
The United Kingdom is among the countries most affected by the epidemic, with a death toll of about 150,000. And it recorded an increase in infections with the Omicron outbreak in late November.
The rate of Covid-19 infections in Britain reached more than one person for every 20 people in the week ending December 31, last December, which is the highest rate of injuries recorded during the pandemic.
Despite the unprecedented numbers, Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided not to tighten the restrictions to reduce the epidemic in England, considering that the number of patients needing treatment in hospital and seriously ill do not yet require further measures.
However, other regions in the United Kingdom have tightened measures, and authorities in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast have imposed restrictions on large gatherings and events for the post-Christmas period.
Meanwhile, British Chambers of Commerce chief economist Soren Theroux warned – in a statement on Thursday – that the return of consumer reluctance to spend and staff shortages due to Omicron, as well as the latest health measures, all point to a short-term economic downturn, especially if there is a need to Additional restrictions.
Chambers of Commerce CEO Shavon Haviland also noted that companies were struggling at the end of 2021 with supply chain disruptions, accelerated inflation and rising energy costs.
He added that many of them found it difficult to improve their cash flows and increase their investments even before the emergence of the Omicron mutant and the imposition of countermeasures to its spread.
According to data published by the British National Bureau of Statistics yesterday, Thursday, 16% of British companies operating or temporarily closed last December witnessed an increase in the cancellation of appointments by customers, especially in the hairdressing and personal care sector and the restaurant and hotel sector.