Millions flock to England’s high streets for £1.5bn Xmas shopping on ‘freedom weekend’

Millions of shoppers hit the high streets today to catch up on their Christmas shopping on the first weekend of freedom since the England lockdown was lifted.

After more than a month of being restricted to online shopping, up to 10 million were expected to splash out £1.5bn on what has been branded ‘Super Saturday’.

The frantic shopping on the first weekend day since lockdown was lifted comes as experts say people are determined to celebrate Christmas and put a “memorable” end to 2020’s doom and gloom.

It is believed that up to 300,000 flocked to London’s West End on Saturday, while 150,00 are estimated to have visited Birmingham’s Bullring and 120,000 to Manchester’s Trafford Centre.

And pictures from lunchtime today show shoppers out in force and already loaded with bags.

In Manchester and the capital, people were waiting in queues outside stores, including Primark and the soon-to-be-closing Debenhams.

Retailers across the UK have been encouraging people to high streets by telling customers every purchase will help protect further job losses.

They are offering up to 80 per cent off items and extending working hours as they desperately try to get rid of stock by the end of the month.

It comes as research shows two in three Brits are fed up of having to shop online and are wanting to revert to the high street as Britain’s economy faces its worst hit in 300 years.

Brits are now happy to shop in store amid Covid in the run-up to Christmas, a Centre for Retail Research study showed.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers are welcoming back customers to stores and offering discounts, extending opening hours and looking at other ways to create an enjoyable shopping experience.

“Everyone can shop in the knowledge that every purchase we make is a retailer helped, a job protected and a local community supported.

“Celebrations are different this year, but we all want to keep Christmas special.”

“The public can do their Christmas shopping confident retail operations are Covid-secure.”

Meanwhile small towns’ high streets enjoyed their busiest day of the year as many Brits shopped local, with independent retailers cheering the windfall after a crisis-hit year.

Pubs in areas outside Tier 3 also had a festive knees-up, with many groups of six braving the cold and making the best of Christmas in Baltic beer gardens.

Professor Joshua Bamfiield, director of the Centre for Retail Research, said: “People are spending as they want to end a miserable year in a memorable way.

“The determination to have a good Christmas can outweigh Covid concerns and dented consumer confidence.”