The emergence of the new coronavirus Omicron variant is starting to impact shopper behaviour in Britain, researcher Springboard has said.
It said that in the week to 4 December overall UK shopper numbers, or footfall, rose 0.7% versus the previous week and was up 0.5% in central London.
However, Springboard noted its central London 'Back to the Office Benchmark', comprising only those areas in close proximity to offices, fell 2% and there was a 3.8% drop in footfall in regional cities outside of the capital.
Springboard said footfall rose 1% in small market towns as more shoppers stayed local.
'An Early Impact On Footfall'
"Last week...provided the first evidence of an early impact on footfall of the Omicron variant," said Diane Wehrle, Springboard's insights director.
Britain first expressed concern about the new variant on 25 November.
There have so far been 246 confirmed cases of Omicron in Britain. The variant appears to be more transmissible, while tests continue to see whether it causes more severe disease or if vaccines are less effective against it.
Springboard said the gap in shopper numbers from the 2019 level was 17.4% last week, but footfall was 43% higher than in 2020.
According to a long-running survey by Gfk, people in Britain were their most downbeat in October since they were under lockdown in February, and are increasingly worried about the year to come as prices and COVID-19 cases rise.
Elsewhere, Euro zone retail sales rose in line with expectations in October as consumers spent more on non-food purchases, particularly online, data from Eurostat showed.