UK shops rack up GBP1.8bn sales on lockdown reopening but most pubs and restaurants remain closed

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Britons have flocked to the streets on the first weekend out of a three-month lockdown, but the hospitality sector remains under pressure.

Non-essential stores made total sales of GBP1.8bn across Saturday and Sunday, though it is still 12% below the same period in 2019, the Centre for Retail Research revealed today.

READ: Pubs and restaurants set for massive weekend if bookings are accurate

“The first week provides a really good basis for retail stores to re-establish themselves,” Professor Joshua Bamfield, director of the centre, told Proactive.

“Retailers were extremely pleased with that first week as it showed that shoppers were keen to return to shops in spite of all the talk about the onward irresistible march of online shopping.”

Recovery still looks far away for pubs and restaurants, as only 23% of England’s 89,953 known licensed sites were trading again by last Thursday.

Reopenings have been more widespread in the pub sector than restaurants, thanks to the wider availability of beer gardens, patios and other outdoor areas, according to latest figures from the Market Recovery Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners.

Four in ten of England’s food pubs have been open though only 12% sites in the independent-led restaurant segment have opened, compared to 23% of chains.

By region, openings have been spread quite evenly across the country, reaching a high of 24.4% in the Central and East, and a low of 21.8% in North England. All licensed premises in Scotland and Wales remain closed until later this month.

Bookings app TheFork said bookings were more than double last weekend than ‘Super Saturday’ a year ago, with London figures rocketing 220%, compared to 105% in the rest of the country.

“With the vast majority of the sector remaining closed until next month’s planned indoor reopening, operators will be hoping that the next phase of Government’s roadmap remains on track,” commented Graeme Smith, managing director at AlixPartners.

“While reports of strong consumer demand this week are welcome and while operators are driving sales where possible through use of their outside spaces, the stark reality is that this trading represents a small proportion of normal revenues and most will be making a loss. Many challenges remain during this reopening phase and the months ahead.”

According to the current roadmap, indoor service will be allowed again on 17 May, although high-profile industry members have challenged the government in court.

Westminster had to file evidence by last Friday to prove the mid-May date has a scientific basis, prompted by Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s night-time economy adviser, and Hugh Osmond, founder of Pizza Express, Punch Taverns and recently-created Various Eateries PLC (LON:VARE).

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