Shoppers were deterred from visiting central London’s shopping district last weekend as Omicron infections continue to rise across the capital.
Retailers have called on the government for more financial support as businesses have been hit by falling footfall in the crucial trading period before Christmas.
It comes after health experts have advised Brits to prioritise their socialising ahead of Christmas, in order to ensure they can see family this week.
Over the weekend, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan declared a ‘major incident’ in the capital, with the highly transmissible Omicron variant accounting for some 80 per cent of new Covid-19 cases in the city.
New West End Company, an organisation that represents 600 businesses in the West End, said footfall for 18 and 19 December was down five per cent from the previous week.
The district was 17 per cent less busy compared to pre-pandemic figures from 2019, New West End Company said.
Across the whole week beginning 13 December, footfall was down 29 per cent compared with 2019’s figures.
Jace Tyrrell , CEO of New West End Company said firms in the area will have been “disappointed” with the turnout, given it is usually their busiest time of year, and called for “swift and urgent” support.
He added: “With less than five days to go until Christmas day and the probabilities of a circuit-breaker lockdown increasingly on the horizon, the retail and leisure sector is now facing a huge amount of financial uncertainty when it should be enjoying a much needed shot in the arm.”
The group is backing a #BusinessBooster campaign, a national call for financial support for retail, hospitality and leisure firms.
Bosses have called for measures including a 100 per cent business rate relief for the first quarter of the year, extension of the VAT reduction and introduction of grants.
What’s more, retail experts Springboard said that weekend footfall dropped 8.5 per cent in central London while footfall for the week was down 19.1 per cent on 2019.
Footfall had been down 17.7 per cent on pre-pandemic levels the week prior.