It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas PANIC! Sea of shoppers flood Oxford Street and West End

A sea of shoppers has flooded on central London in a last ditch dash to grab deals as retailers brace for a £5.2billion four-day spending frenzy from Friday.

Customers took to the world-renown Oxford Street and the West End as they hunted for bargains with less than two weeks until Christmas.

Queues formed outside upmarket stores such as Hermes and Louis Vuitton as well heeled Londoners emerged with huge gift bags.

Others carried purchases from JD Sports, Footlocker TK Maxx and Selfridges as they walked down the bustling streets of the capital.

It comes as a new report found 11million shoppers could spend up to £5.2billion on Christmas shopping this weekend in four days of panic buying.

Meanwhile London, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire were put under Tier Three curbs at midnight with hospitality venues blasting the move after receiving less than 48 hours’ notice.

It comes as a new report found 11million shoppers could spend up to £5.2billion on Christmas shopping this weekend in four days of panic buying. Pictured: Oxford Street today

It comes as a new report found 11million shoppers could spend up to £5.2billion on Christmas shopping this weekend in four days of panic buying. Pictured: Oxford Street today

It comes as a new report found 11million shoppers could spend up to £5.2billion on Christmas shopping this weekend in four days of panic buying. Pictured: Oxford Street today

Research by VoucherCodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research found £2.5million will be spent in store every minute. Pictured: Oxford Street today

Research by VoucherCodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research found £2.5million will be spent in store every minute. Pictured: Oxford Street today

Research by VoucherCodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research found £2.5million will be spent in store every minute. Pictured: Oxford Street today

Footfall is predicted to leap by 12 per cent compared to last year but the total spent is expected to be 3 per cent less than in 2019. Pictured: Oxford Street today

Footfall is predicted to leap by 12 per cent compared to last year but the total spent is expected to be 3 per cent less than in 2019. Pictured: Oxford Street today

Footfall is predicted to leap by 12 per cent compared to last year but the total spent is expected to be 3 per cent less than in 2019. Pictured: Oxford Street today

Customers took to the world-renown Oxford Street and the West End as they hunted for bargains with less than two weeks until Christmas

Customers took to the world-renown Oxford Street and the West End as they hunted for bargains with less than two weeks until Christmas

Customers took to the world-renown Oxford Street and the West End as they hunted for bargains with less than two weeks until Christmas

On what has been dubbed 'frenzied Friday' Britons are estimated to spend £1.55billion - £1.1billion in store and £450million online - a 19 per cent surge on 2019. Pictured: Oxford Street today

On what has been dubbed 'frenzied Friday' Britons are estimated to spend £1.55billion - £1.1billion in store and £450million online - a 19 per cent surge on 2019. Pictured: Oxford Street today

On what has been dubbed ‘frenzied Friday’ Britons are estimated to spend £1.55billion – £1.1billion in store and £450million online – a 19 per cent surge on 2019. Pictured: Oxford Street today

Russ Gilbert, 58, and Michelle Right, 53, took the day off work to do their Christmas shopping on Oxford Street.

Ms Right said: ‘We decided to take the day off work so we could finish all the family’s Christmas shopping. We knew what everyone wanted so we made sure that the shops we were coming for were open.’

Even if the rules were to change before Christmas, it wouldn’t really affect them, they say. Mr Gilbert said: ‘The only difference would be we are having Michelle’s mum and dad over for Christmas Day.

‘That’s a little bit up in the air because they’re old, but we’ve had a Covid test this week so we’re alright. But if the rules got stricter we would manage and we’ve done really well so far.

‘It does piss a lot of people off our age, I can understand that, but it’s for a reason isn’t it. It seems a lot of people blame the people who make these decisions. But they make them for a reason and I’m happy to accept it and make the most of what we have got.’

Donna Coventry, 52, from Shoreditch was out shopping for ‘last bits’ with her niece Kasey Louise in case the shops do shut.

Ms Coventry said: ‘I did think they were going to shut because they said tier three lockdown. If it’s tier three it should be essential shops only which are open I think. If it’s that dangerous the virus, if it’s that serious, why would you leave the shops open?

‘We bought mostly online but you can’t judge things sometimes and then you’ve got to send it back and you lose your delivery fee.’

When asked if they thought the rules would get stricter, Kasey said: ‘I’m done with rules. We lost our nan who died on her own practically, not from the virus and no one was allowed at her funeral because of corona.

‘But I can shop in the West End and go into a Sainsbury’s with 300 people.’ Both are planning on spending Christmas with their family, regardless.

Ms Coventry said: ‘The thing is we’ve got quite a close knit family and we’ve lost the main person, the head of the household and we need to be together.’

Jo Dalcomuna, 44, from Upminster in East London said: ‘By chance I have someone to look after my kids and so I came here.

‘If the rules get stricter I will have to cancel some trips because my mother in law is coming from abroad. I would be sad of course but I would have to do it because she’s in high risk. It’s more about her than me.’

Research by VoucherCodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research found £2.5million will be spent in store every minute.

On what has been dubbed ‘frenzied Friday’ Britons are estimated to spend £1.55billion – £1.1billion in store and £450million online – a 19 per cent surge on 2019.

Trading is expected to peak for December on ‘super Saturday’ as 11.5million descend on the beleaguered High Street.

Footfall is predicted to leap by 12 per cent compared to last year but the total spent is expected to be 3 per cent less than in 2019.

London is expected to lead the charge for money spent, racking up a total of £504million on Friday and Saturday, closely followed by the South East spending £485million.

Trading is expected to peak for December on 'super Saturday' as 11.5million descend on the beleaguered High Street. Pictured: Oxford Street today

Trading is expected to peak for December on 'super Saturday' as 11.5million descend on the beleaguered High Street. Pictured: Oxford Street today

Trading is expected to peak for December on ‘super Saturday’ as 11.5million descend on the beleaguered High Street. Pictured: Oxford Street today

Queues formed outside upmarket stores such as Hermes and Louis Vuitton as well heeled Londoners emerged with huge gift bags

Queues formed outside upmarket stores such as Hermes and Louis Vuitton as well heeled Londoners emerged with huge gift bags

Queues formed outside upmarket stores such as Hermes and Louis Vuitton as well heeled Londoners emerged with huge gift bags

People queue outside Louis Vuitton on New Bond Street in central London this morning after the last night of London being in Tier Two of Covid restrictions

People queue outside Louis Vuitton on New Bond Street in central London this morning after the last night of London being in Tier Two of Covid restrictions

People queue outside Louis Vuitton on New Bond Street in central London this morning after the last night of London being in Tier Two of Covid restrictions

People carry shopping bags outside the Selfridges department store on Oxford Street, where shops are allowed to stay open under the newly placed Tier 3 restrictions for coronavirus in London

People carry shopping bags outside the Selfridges department store on Oxford Street, where shops are allowed to stay open under the newly placed Tier 3 restrictions for coronavirus in London

People carry shopping bags outside the Selfridges department store on Oxford Street, where shops are allowed to stay open under the newly placed Tier 3 restrictions for coronavirus in London

People walk along Oxford Street in central London amid Tier 3 restrictions for the capital starting on Wednesday morning

People walk along Oxford Street in central London amid Tier 3 restrictions for the capital starting on Wednesday morning

People walk along Oxford Street in central London amid Tier 3 restrictions for the capital starting on Wednesday morning

Sunday is also expected to see a huge amount of money exchange hands – £850million by 8.5million shoppers – but it is down eight per cent on last year.

On Monday, with just four days until December 25, the High Street is expected to welcome 11million customers spending a total of £1.3billion, which represents a 0.8 per cent rise on 2019.

Retail stores and supermarkets are expected to be especially busy this year due to most online retailers no longer being able to guarantee delivery in time for Christmas.

Lifestyle Editor at VoucherCodes.co.uk Anita Naik said: ‘The last full week before Christmas is always a busy period for retailers both offline and online.

‘After a difficult year for the high street, it’s encouraging to see spend is predicted to hit £2.5m in-store every minute.’

People queue outside Hermes on New Bond Street on Wednesday morning as people flock to the shops to get last minute Christmas gifts

People queue outside Hermes on New Bond Street on Wednesday morning as people flock to the shops to get last minute Christmas gifts

People queue outside Hermes on New Bond Street on Wednesday morning as people flock to the shops to get last minute Christmas gifts

Others carried purchases from JD Sports, Footlocker TK Maxx and Selfridges as they walked down the bustling streets of the capital

Others carried purchases from JD Sports, Footlocker TK Maxx and Selfridges as they walked down the bustling streets of the capital

Others carried purchases from JD Sports, Footlocker TK Maxx and Selfridges as they walked down the bustling streets of the capital

Meanwhile people were on Oxford Street in Swansea on a day when Wales issued advice that only two households should come together to 'form an exclusive Christmas bubble'

Meanwhile people were on Oxford Street in Swansea on a day when Wales issued advice that only two households should come together to 'form an exclusive Christmas bubble'

Meanwhile people were on Oxford Street in Swansea on a day when Wales issued advice that only two households should come together to ‘form an exclusive Christmas bubble’

In Wales (pictured, Swansea) Mr Drakeford told the Welsh Government briefing: 'Here in Wales, the position is that only two households should come together to form an exclusive Christmas bubble during the five-day period'

In Wales (pictured, Swansea) Mr Drakeford told the Welsh Government briefing: 'Here in Wales, the position is that only two households should come together to form an exclusive Christmas bubble during the five-day period'

In Wales (pictured, Swansea) Mr Drakeford told the Welsh Government briefing: ‘Here in Wales, the position is that only two households should come together to form an exclusive Christmas bubble during the five-day period’

Shoppers in Cardiff walk down the street with shopping bags after grabbing some last minute Christmas gifts on Wednesday

Shoppers in Cardiff walk down the street with shopping bags after grabbing some last minute Christmas gifts on Wednesday

Shoppers in Cardiff walk down the street with shopping bags after grabbing some last minute Christmas gifts on Wednesday

People lug shopping from Primark home after a successful visit to the high street in Cardiff, Wales, on Wednesday afternoon

People lug shopping from Primark home after a successful visit to the high street in Cardiff, Wales, on Wednesday afternoon

People lug shopping from Primark home after a successful visit to the high street in Cardiff, Wales, on Wednesday afternoon

She continued: ‘Most people will be using this coming weekend to stock up on food items, last minute presents and maybe an extra bottle or two of bubbly.

‘If you are planning to do all your Christmas shopping online this year, make sure you order with plenty of time. Most online stores will no longer be able to guarantee delivery in time for Christmas after 18 December.

‘Shopping for Christmas can be overwhelming especially as the big day draws nearer. However, it’s important to make sure you’re not panicked into spending more than intended.’

Linda Wetherall, 69, from Rotherhithe, said: ‘I was worried tier three would impede on shopping. It’s too late for online, but I’ve done online.

‘Im going to be mingling with one other household over Christmas.

Which businesses are open in Tier 3 London and which are closed?

Open: 

  • Shops
  • Hairdressers
  • Gyms
  • Outdoor entertainment centres
  • Public spaces

Closed: 

  • Pubs, bars and cafes
  • Hotels
  • Theatres and cinemas
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‘Normally there are about 18 of us sitting around the table and this year only four.

‘If Boris shuts everything down I would be sad but there’s a killer virus so you have to shut everything down. I think he’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.’

Massah Johnson, 30, said: ‘I’m going away so I had to do my Christmas shopping for my family in Africa.

‘I wasn’t really worried about things closing because I’m used to it, but I think it’s unnecessary.

‘I’m very happy that I’m going away so the rules won’t apply to me.’

Graham Bradley, 57, from the West End, said: ‘I like coming out in the mornings because there aren’t too many people around. Obviously things could change before Christmas but I think Boris doesn’t want to.

‘I think as long as people recognise the risk and are as careful as we can with their older members. My wife is in hospital over Christmas and I’m not allowed to see her.

‘So I’ve created a bubbles with my two daughters who live together and they will come for Christmas. So we’re actually operating within the one bubble. Because my wife is in hospital we don’t want to mix with any other family.’

Nancy Burbrige, 30, from north London said: ‘I had a baby sitter so I took the chance to come out and do some Christmas shopping.

‘I did plan to go yesterday because I thought the shops were closing but obviously they’re staying open in tier three.

‘I thought the new rules were coming into place today but no, they’re staying open anyway, so it doesn’t matter. Things are changing at the minute, one minute you can, one minute you can’t.

‘But I’m pretty relaxed about it all of I’m honest. I’m spending Christmas at home with my family, parents and myself.’

London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire were put under Tier Three curbs at midnight with hospitality venues receiving less than 48 hours’ notice.

While some restaurants are choosing to rely on deliveries during the new measures, other dine-in venues have warned an ‘immense amount’ of food and drink will be binned.

One London restaurateur said the move into Tier Three had already cost him £42,000 in lost bookings, as well as a week of wasted stock, and The Breakfast Group chain said it would lose up to £50,000 of fresh food and drink.

Looking further ahead, Westminster City Council leader Rachael Robathan warned people ‘not to hover in the West End just to see in the New Year’ amid her concerns over the ‘looming safety risks around New Year’s Eve’.

Restrictions are supposed to be eased to allow up to three households to meet for five days over the festive period, but pubs in Tier Three will have to remain closed.

Sunday is also expected to see a huge amount of money exchange hands - £850million by 8.5million shoppers - but it is down eight per cent on last year. Pictured: New Bong Street today

Sunday is also expected to see a huge amount of money exchange hands - £850million by 8.5million shoppers - but it is down eight per cent on last year. Pictured: New Bong Street today

Sunday is also expected to see a huge amount of money exchange hands – £850million by 8.5million shoppers – but it is down eight per cent on last year. Pictured: New Bong Street today

People queue outside Louis Vuitton on New Bond Street in central London on Wednesday morning as they try to bag last minute Christmas gifts

People queue outside Louis Vuitton on New Bond Street in central London on Wednesday morning as they try to bag last minute Christmas gifts

People queue outside Louis Vuitton on New Bond Street in central London on Wednesday morning as they try to bag last minute Christmas gifts

The queue at luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton went aroudn the coroner as people wearing face coverings waited in line

The queue at luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton went aroudn the coroner as people wearing face coverings waited in line

The queue at luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton went aroudn the coroner as people wearing face coverings waited in line

Wales' (pictured, Swansea) First Minister Mr Drakeford said: 'The fewer people we mix with in our homes, the less chance we have of catching or spreading the virus'

Wales' (pictured, Swansea) First Minister Mr Drakeford said: 'The fewer people we mix with in our homes, the less chance we have of catching or spreading the virus'

Wales’ (pictured, Swansea) First Minister Mr Drakeford said: ‘The fewer people we mix with in our homes, the less chance we have of catching or spreading the virus’

Clothing and food appear to be having an affect on the UK economic as inflation slowed down in November as prices shrank amid tightened coronavirus restrictions.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation decreased to 0.3 per cent for the month, from 0.7 per cent in October. It was below the expectations of analysts, who had predicted that inflation would only dip to 0.6 per cent.

ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics Jonathan Athow said: ‘With significant restrictions in place across the UK, inflation slowed, predominantly due to clothing and food prices.

‘Also, after several months of buoyant growth, second-hand car prices fell back a little.’

Asda is forced to hire hundreds more security guards at its supermarkets as it prepares for huge surge in Christmas panic buyers

Asda has said it will boost security measures across its stores ahead of a rush of shoppers before Christmas.

The supermarket chain said it will be deploying extra security on the doors of all its 421 large superstores between December 19 and December 24.

It said the additional safety measures will be in place to ‘protect colleagues and customers during the busy Christmas shopping period’.

Asda said it will add extra security staff to the Asda safety marshals currently on duty at the front of each of its stores.

The retailer said its Qudini virtual queuing app is also now available across its stores.

Automatic counting technology has been installed in Asda’s 100 busiest stores to control access and help customers to socially distance, it added. 

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The ONS said sliding clothing and footwear costs made the largest contribution to lower inflation, as shoppers saw prices which were 3.6 per cent lower than in the same month last year.

It said this was driven by increased discounting as retailers sought to drive online sales ahead of Christmas while stores remained shut in England due to the second national lockdown.

The ONS also highlighted speculation that Black Friday sales were spread further across the month than in previous years.

Meanwhile, food and non-alcoholic drinks fell by 0.6 per cent in the year to November as vegetables and confectionery prices moved lower.

Motor fuels also caused downward pressure on inflation, as fuel prices sank in November amid a continued fall in demand as the pandemic weighed on travel.

Restaurant and hotels were one of the few areas to have a positive contribution to inflation as prices were increased as the pandemic continued to weigh on business costs and hamper trading. 

The Retail Price Index (RPI), a separate measure of inflation, was 0.9 per cent in November, falling from 1.3 per cent in the previous month.

Meanwhile, the CPI, including owner-occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) – the ONS’s preferred measure of inflation – was 0.6 per cent last month, down from 0.9 per cent in October.

Jon Hudson, UK equity manager at Premier Miton Investors, said: ‘November’s restrictions unsurprisingly led to the inflation rate falling and it remains well below the 2 per cent target.

‘Looking forward, there are signs of inflationary pressures building, such as rising global commodity prices, but there is currently too much slack in the UK economy for it to become an issue.

‘If a trade deal can be agreed with the EU and the pound rises as a result, it will make importing goods and services into the UK cheaper, further dampening near-term prospects of inflation.’ 

Supermarket giant Asda announced yesterday it will boost security measures across its stores ahead of a rush of shoppers before Christmas.

The chain said it will be deploying extra security on the doors of all its 421 large superstores between December 19 and December 24.

Mr Drakeford (pictured, Swansea today) announced swingeing restrictions outside of the bubbles, with all non-essential retail, including close contact services and all leisure and fitness centres, ordered to close at the end of trading on Christmas Eve. All hospitality premises will close from 6pm on Christmas Day

Mr Drakeford (pictured, Swansea today) announced swingeing restrictions outside of the bubbles, with all non-essential retail, including close contact services and all leisure and fitness centres, ordered to close at the end of trading on Christmas Eve. All hospitality premises will close from 6pm on Christmas Day

Mr Drakeford (pictured, Swansea today) announced swingeing restrictions outside of the bubbles, with all non-essential retail, including close contact services and all leisure and fitness centres, ordered to close at the end of trading on Christmas Eve. All hospitality premises will close from 6pm on Christmas Day

The UK (pictured, Newcastle) was facing Christmas chaos today as Boris Johnson insisted families will not be 'criminalised' for celebrating in bubbles

The UK (pictured, Newcastle) was facing Christmas chaos today as Boris Johnson insisted families will not be 'criminalised' for celebrating in bubbles

The UK (pictured, Newcastle) was facing Christmas chaos today as Boris Johnson insisted families will not be ‘criminalised’ for celebrating in bubbles

The PM stressed the risks of fuelling a surge in coronavirus cases as he claimed there had been 'unanimous' backing for the five-day festive easing after days of wrangling between the UK nations. Pictured: Newcastle today

The PM stressed the risks of fuelling a surge in coronavirus cases as he claimed there had been 'unanimous' backing for the five-day festive easing after days of wrangling between the UK nations. Pictured: Newcastle today

The PM stressed the risks of fuelling a surge in coronavirus cases as he claimed there had been ‘unanimous’ backing for the five-day festive easing after days of wrangling between the UK nations. Pictured: Newcastle today

Mr Johnson said the plans remained in place despite urging everyone to 'exercise extreme caution' - after ministers suggested waiting until Easter to celebrate. He will hold a press conference alongside chief medical officer Chris Whitty at 3.30pm. Pictured: Newcastle today

Mr Johnson said the plans remained in place despite urging everyone to 'exercise extreme caution' - after ministers suggested waiting until Easter to celebrate. He will hold a press conference alongside chief medical officer Chris Whitty at 3.30pm. Pictured: Newcastle today

Mr Johnson said the plans remained in place despite urging everyone to ‘exercise extreme caution’ – after ministers suggested waiting until Easter to celebrate. He will hold a press conference alongside chief medical officer Chris Whitty at 3.30pm. Pictured: Newcastle today

In bruising clashes, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Mr Johnson of ignoring scientists' advice on Christmas. But he shot back by accusing Sir Keir of not having the 'guts' to come out in favour of cancelling the easing. Pictured: Newcastle

In bruising clashes, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Mr Johnson of ignoring scientists' advice on Christmas. But he shot back by accusing Sir Keir of not having the 'guts' to come out in favour of cancelling the easing. Pictured: Newcastle

In bruising clashes, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Mr Johnson of ignoring scientists’ advice on Christmas. But he shot back by accusing Sir Keir of not having the ‘guts’ to come out in favour of cancelling the easing. Pictured: Newcastle

It said the additional safety measures will be in place to ‘protect colleagues and customers during the busy Christmas shopping period’.

Asda said it will add extra security staff to the Asda safety marshals currently on duty at the front of each of its stores.

The retailer said its Qudini virtual queuing app is also now available across its stores. Automatic counting technology has been installed in Asda’s 100 busiest stores to control access and help people socially distance.

Dixons Carphone sales jump after pandemic online boost

Booming online sales during the pandemic helped electricals retailer Dixons Carphone swing to a half-year profit as it overcame the hit from store closures during lockdowns.

Shares in the Currys PC World owner soared 11 per cent as it posted statutory pre-tax profits of £45 million for the six months to October 31 against losses of £86 million a year earlier.

It notched up a 16 per cent hike in like-for-like UK and Ireland electricals sales, while online sales jumped 145 per cent, which offset the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on its shops.

The group, which normally makes most of its profits in the final six months of its financial year, revealed that current trading remains buoyant, with same-store sales up 16 per cent in the six weeks to December 12 despite store closures in the UK and Greece.

On an underlying basis, group interim pre-tax profits rocketed to £89 million from £2 million a year earlier.

Dixons Carphone said it received £103 million in furlough support for workers and business rates tax relief, but that it had not used the Job Retention Scheme since October.

It has not followed the lead of a raft of retail rivals in paying back the support, but chief executive Alex Baldock insisted the group has ‘been responsible in our use of government support’.

He said: ‘We used the furlough scheme to preserve jobs in the first lockdown, and didn’t use the scheme at all in the second.’

He added the group had been trading against rivals ‘with one arm behind our back’ due to the enforced store closures, but indicated the group would consider repaying some support if strong trading continues.

‘The outlook is still uncertain… we have a while to go until the end of our full year so we’ll see,’ he said.

The group also revealed it has been affected by the congestion at container ports, with delays of up to two days for some of its goods.

A spike in imports due to the Covid-19 pandemic and fears of a no-deal Brexit have led to bottlenecks at UK ports in recent weeks.

But Dixons Carphone said it ‘can handle’ the delays and has been preparing for Brexit disruption for a long time.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘Dixons Carphone has emerged as one of the big retail winners of the pandemic, clearly embracing the e-commerce revolution.

‘When stores fully open, its digital prowess combined with its face-to-face service in store, with multiple product categories under one roof, should help Dixon Carphone build on these impressive results.’

Earlier this year, Dixons Carphone announce a £200 million cost-saving plan, which saw it slash hundreds of jobs.

About £100 million of this is related to the company’s mobile business, which has suffered a major overhaul following the closure of all 531 Carphone Warehouse stores. This was reflected in the results, which showed a 54 per cent plunge in UK and Ireland mobile revenues although losses narrowed to £36 million from £44 million a year ago.

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Yesterday West End landlord Shaftesbury plummeted to a £699million annual loss after the pandemic battered rental income and caused property values to plunge.

Shares in the company, whose properties span London’s Carnaby Street, Chinatown and Seven Dials, slipped after it swung to the pre-tax loss for the 12 months to September, following a £26 million profit last year.

The company said the loss was driven by a dive in the value of property estate, which is highly exposed to retail and hospitality sectors which have been hit hard by the pandemic.

It said £698.5 million was wiped off the value of its estate, taking its value down 18.3 per cent to £3.1 billion by September. Rental income slumped by 24.2 per cent to £74.3million for the period, Shaftesbury said. 

The group’s chief executive Brian Bickell said: ‘Rarely in history has the world seen such widespread disruption to normal patterns of life. Only now are we seeing the first positive signs that conditions will begin to improve in the year ahead.

‘The pandemic has had a significant impact on our performance, particularly during the second half of the financial year, depriving our hospitality and retail occupiers of footfall and trade and resulting in reduced rent collections, increased vacancy, reduced occupier demand and a fall in property valuations. Our key priority has been, and continues to be, supporting our occupiers through this period of disruption.’ 

Shares in the company were 3.7 per cent lower at 528.5p in early trading yesterday.

Meanwhile booming online sales during the pandemic helped electricals retailer Dixons Carphone swing to a half-year profit as it overcame the hit from store closures during lockdowns.

Shares in the Currys PC World owner soared 11 per cent as it posted statutory pre-tax profits of £45 million for the six months to October 31 against losses of £86 million a year earlier.

It notched up a 16 per cent hike in like-for-like UK and Ireland electricals sales, while online sales jumped 145 per cent, which offset the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on its shops.

The group, which normally makes most of its profits in the final six months of its financial year, revealed that current trading remains buoyant, with same-store sales up 16 per cent in the six weeks to December 12 despite store closures in the UK and Greece.

On an underlying basis, group interim pre-tax profits rocketed to £89 million from £2 million a year earlier.

Dixons Carphone said it received £103 million in furlough support for workers and business rates tax relief, but that it had not used the Job Retention Scheme since October.

It has not followed the lead of a raft of retail rivals in paying back the support, but chief executive Alex Baldock insisted the group has ‘been responsible in our use of government support’.

He said: ‘We used the furlough scheme to preserve jobs in the first lockdown, and didn’t use the scheme at all in the second.’

He added the group had been trading against rivals ‘with one arm behind our back’ due to the enforced store closures, but indicated the group would consider repaying some support if strong trading continues.

‘The outlook is still uncertain… we have a while to go until the end of our full year so we’ll see,’ he said.

The group also revealed it has been affected by the congestion at container ports, with delays of up to two days for some of its goods.

A spike in imports due to the Covid-19 pandemic and fears of a no-deal Brexit have led to bottlenecks at UK ports in recent weeks.

But Dixons Carphone said it ‘can handle’ the delays and has been preparing for Brexit disruption for a long time.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘Dixons Carphone has emerged as one of the big retail winners of the pandemic, clearly embracing the e-commerce revolution.

‘When stores fully open, its digital prowess combined with its face-to-face service in store, with multiple product categories under one roof, should help Dixon Carphone build on these impressive results.’

Earlier this year, Dixons Carphone announce a £200 million cost-saving plan, which saw it slash hundreds of jobs.

About £100 million of this is related to the company’s mobile business, which has suffered a major overhaul following the closure of all 531 Carphone Warehouse stores.

This was reflected in the results, which showed a 54 per cent plunge in UK and Ireland mobile revenues although losses narrowed to £36 million from £44 million a year ago.

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