High streets descended into chaos on Saturday as shoppers were left with just hours to buy their Christmas gifts before shops close at midnight tonight in London and South East.
The scramble came after Boris Johnson this afternoon revealed that a third of England – including London and swathes of the home counties – will be thrust into a brutal ‘Tier 4’ lockdown from midnight on Saturday.
The draconian bracket will see non-essential shops shut, and travel restrictions including a ‘stay at home’ order for Christmas Day itself – even though Mr Johnson insisted just days ago that it would be ‘inhuman’ to axe five-day festive ‘bubbles’.
Pictures from Oxford Street in London showed huge crowds of shoppers flooding the streets to get their last minute purchases in before the introduction of the Tier 4 measures.
Meanwhile, huge queues formed along the country’s high streets and supermarkets today as they stocked up on Christmas essentials – though footfall was down on last weekend.
Pictured: People shopping on Regent Street in central London on the last Saturday shopping day before Christmas. Boris Johnson has cancelled Christmas for millions of people across London and south-east England after scientists said that a new coronavirus variant is spreading more rapidly
Pictured: Shoppers queue outside a shop in Oxford Street on Saturday night ahead of the introduction of Tier 4, announced by Boris Johnson on Saturday evening in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus
The draconian bracket will see non-essential shops shut, and travel restrictions including a ‘stay at home’ order for Christmas Day itself – even though Mr Johnson insisted just days ago that it would be ‘inhuman’ to axe five-day festive ‘bubbles’
Pictured: Shoppers, some wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, look at shop window displays inside a chrestmas-themed Burlington Arcade in London on December 19, 2020
Experts predict the UK’s tills will ring with a staggering £2.5million-a-minute spent before December 22 as shoppers stack up on last-minute gifts.
And today saw mask-wearing shoppers rush to get their Christmas dinner essentials with winding queues forming outside Costco in Manchester.
Meanwhile in Newcastle, the high street was jam-packed with locals eager to get their last-minute presents bought as online shoppers keen to avoid crowded stores put an enormous strain on postal deliveries.
In Southampton, tech-savvy buyers queued outside Currys PC World while a Kent marketplace put up signs warning pedestrians of the Covid risk in the region.
However, experts said there were 2.6 per cent fewer people on shop floors than last Saturday, with huge drops being seen when compared to the same period last year.
Footfall was down more than 35 per cent nationwide than on the same Saturday in 2019, while the drop off was a massive 70 per cent in Central London.
A spokesperson for retail analysts Springboard told MailOnline: ‘This is undoubtedly due to the introduction of Tier 3 restrictions across most of England, as we would have expected footfall to rise on what is the last trading Saturday before Christmas.
Countless Britons flocked to the country’s high streets and supermarkets (queues outside Costco in Manchester, pictured) today as they stocked up on Christmas essentials ahead of the big day
In Newcastle (pictured), the highstreet was jam-packed with locals eager to get their last-minute presents bought as online shoppers keen to avoid crowded stores put an enormous strain on postal deliveries
In Southampton, tech-savvy buyers queued outside Currys PC World. Mask-wearing shoppers were seen in a queue which snaked outside the store
Meanwhile a Kent marketplace put up signs warning pedestrians of the Covid risk in the region. Shoppers were seen walking around
Oxford Street in London looked crowded today as shoppers rushed to buy their last-minute Christmas presents as the day approaches
Shoppers on bustling Oxford Street in London were seen stocking up on presents on the last weekend before Christmas
Crowds were seen walking along Oxford Street today. Many opted to wear masks as they walked outside
Some shoppers paused to listen to music on Oxford Street on the last Saturday before Christmas. Many opted to do their Christmas shopping on the highstreet
Huge groups of people were seen walking along London’s Oxford street as Christmas Day approaches. Many wore masks
‘Indeed, in 2015 – the last time that Christmas Day also fell on a Friday as it does this year – footfall in retail destinations rose by +7.6% up to 12pm on Saturday 19th December.
‘The only type of retail destination where footfall was higher on Saturday than on the previous Saturday were retail parks and only those that comprise mainly homeware and DIY stores.
‘In this type of retail park, footfall was +2.9% higher than last week whilst in parks that are dominated by fashion retailers footfall was -7.9% lower.
‘In all other types of destination across the UK, footfall had dropped from the week before. Even in large shopping centres – which typically are a big draw for shoppers for Christmas shopping as they have the greatest concentration of multiple stores as they have the widest product offering and are also mainly under cover – footfall was lower than on Saturday 12th December.
‘However, it seems that smaller shopping centres have increased in popularity, with footfall in the smallest shopping centres of less than 100,000 sq ft 9.2% higher than last Saturday.
‘This is a strong indicator that shoppers are staying local, which has been a feature of shopper activity since the start of the first lockdown in March, but undoubtedly exacerbated now due to the widespread Tier 3 restrictions.’
Despite there being less footfall than last week, a relatively big rush today – the last Saturday before Christmas – was a stark contrast to scenes yesterday which saw highstreets nearly deserted on what many hoped would be a Frenzied Friday shopping spree.
Boris Johnson’s decision to place London in Tier 3 has decimated trade in the West End with footfall down 25 per cent in a week and 68.5 per cent in a year on one of the busiest shopping days of 2020.
Friday’s total spending was expected to be around £1.55billion – up by 19 per cent on the equivalent day last year – despite the dreaded coronavirus crisis trashing the festive season for millions.
But while many still braved pouring rain to hit the shops in London, Liverpool, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Reading, Windsor and Swansea, the number of people shopping compared to a week ago – and the same day in 2019 – is down massively as a total of 38 million people begin life in Tier Three from Saturday.
Coronavirus lockdown rules hammered the UK High Street in November as retail sales dropped by 3.8 per cent when compared to October.
Clothing stores were the hardest hit as sales plummeted by 19 per cent while the sale of fuel also tumbled by 16.6 per cent as families stayed at home.
However, online shopping surged by 74.7 per cent year-on-year as businesses said people had brought forward their Christmas shopping.
In central London, put into Tier 3 early this week, the number of people on Oxford Street, Bond Street and other shopping streets has plummeted, exclusive figures show.
The big rush to the highstreet on the last Saturday before Christmas (queues outside Currys PC World, pictured) was a stark contrast to scenes yesterday which saw highstreets nearly deserted on what many hoped would be a Frenzied Friday shopping spree
Newcastle’s Northumberland Street was packed with shoppers eager to get a Christmas bargain as the big day draws near
Shoppers in Newcastle were today eager to get their hands on some last-minute gifts on the last Saturday before Christmas
Huge queues were seen outside Costco in Manchester as shoppers rushed to stock up on their Christmas dinner essentials
Lines of trolleys were seen outside Costco in Manchester on Saturday as Christmas day draws nearer and home delivery slots book up
Shoppers were seen with trolleys piled high with essentials as winding queues formed outside Costco in Birmingham
Shoppers with their trolleys filled to the brim with Christmas day essentials were seen outside Costco in Birmingham
Shoppers hit a market in Dartford, Kent, as they sought to stock up on last-minute Christmas presents before the big day
Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard said: ‘In Central London footfall declined sharply from the week before by 24.3% following the imposition of Tier 3 regulations. In regional cities outside London footfall declined by 2.3% due to this reason’.
Only visits to shopping centres were up today, when compared to a week ago, but still down compared to December 18 2019.
Ms Wehrle said: ‘In shopping centres footfall rose from the previous Friday by 2.5%, which is a trend we expect with shoppers gravitating to shopping centres in the run up to Christmas as there is the widest choice of products for gifting’.
She added: ‘The peak Christmas shopping day in each year is December 23, however this year – due to the five day quarantine holiday that starts on 23rd – we forecast that the peak day will be December 22’.
The highstreet figures come as images of a mountains of post bags at sorting offices spark fears about delayed Christmas presents this season. A Bristol sorting office, pictured
Thousands of presents remain buried in mountains of post bags at sorting offices, it has been revealed. Pictured is the Royal Mail sorting office in Manchester
The highstreet figures come as images of a mountains of post bags at sorting offices spark fears about delayed Christmas presents this season.
A second showed that sorting offices are so inundated that staff are having to stack items outside, putting parcels at risk of being damaged by rain or even stolen.
Union bosses are reporting similar scenes across the country and have described the Christmas delivery chaos as a ‘nightmare’ after businesses complained parcels were taking up to a month to arrive.
Sorting offices are so inundated that staff are having to stack items outside, putting parcels at risk of being damaged by rain or even stolen. Pictured is a site in Essex
A massive switch to online shopping means there are an estimated 200million more parcels in the postal and courier system this year. Online orders are expected to be up by more than 50 per cent as internet festive shopping overtakes the high street for the first time.
The Royal Mail has hired 33,000 temporary staff to help deal with demand.
It comes as a scarcity of online supermarket delivery slots risks sending scores of Christmas dinner plans up in smoke and many Christmas gifts are stuck waiting to arrive in Britain due to chaos at the ports.
Shoppers are desperately scrolling through slot times but finding they are fully booked or will not arrive until after December 25.
It comes as a scarcity of online supermarket delivery slots risks sending scores of Christmas dinner plans up in smoke. The scramble for food appears to have resulted in shortages – which left one Tesco customer furious when her delivery arrived with no turkey
Shoppers are desperately scrolling through slot times but finding they are fully booked or will not arrive until after December 25. An Asda in London is completely booked for deliveries
Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons all confirmed to MailOnline that they were grappling with a high demand for deliveries amid a festive rush.
Meanwhile delays with Christmas presents are threatening to ruin Christmas for families and businesses.
Many customers have complained about items arriving late, while John Lewis, Boots and HMV have blamed Royal Mail for delivery delays. Terry Pullinger, of the Communication Workers Union, said: ‘We could not possibly have anticipated this level of packets and parcels, it seems to be intensifying every day.
‘That coupled with the arrangements that are going to be in place to keep key workers safe because of Covid, and the rising spread of Covid, is complicating what is already a strategic nightmare.’
Ian Trehearne, branch secretary for Gloucestershire, said sorting offices have been ‘flooded’ and had been ‘under the cosh’ without let up since April.