Consumers hit High Streets to get Christmas shopping before lockdowns

Jingle tills! Consumers hit Britain’s High Streets while they can to get their Christmas shopping done amid fears Omicron Covid variant will spark new lockdowns over festive period

  • Politicians and business leaders joined calls for shoppers to support small businesses this weekend
  • The Government backed Small Business Saturday to encourage people to spend money in smaller shops
  • Ministers have moved to calm fears of the holiday being marred by tough restrictions again this year 

Consumers have hit Britain’s High Streets in earnest to get their Christmas shopping done before any new Covid lockdowns can get in their way.

Politicians and business leaders joined calls for shoppers to support small businesses this weekend to help them tackle the fresh uncertainty they face heading into the crucial festive trading period.

The Government and opposition parties backed Small Business Saturday, which aims to encourage people to spend money in smaller shops, recognising the contribution of independent businesses to communities during the lockdown.

It comes as ministers moved to calm fears of the holiday being marred by tough restrictions again this year, with Boris Johnson last night insisting that he wanted Britons to enjoy Christmas as ‘normally as possible’.

But Professor Peter Openshaw, one of No10’s scientific advisers, broke ranks, saying he ‘wouldn’t feel safe’ going to a party. 

He said the chances of getting infected at a festive gathering were already ‘too high’ before the emergence of the super-mutant variant.

And Britain’s pubs and restaurants earlier this week lashed out at the Government’s ‘catastrophic’ 48 hours of mixed messaging as firms call off Christmas parties and cancel bookings at hospitality venues across the country.

Meanwhile, NHS bosses revealed Britain’s accelerated booster programme to protect against the Omicron Covid variant will not start for another nine days, with pressure mounting on the goal to reach all adults by the end of January.

Another 75 cases of the mutant strain were found in England yesterday, taking the UK’s total number up to 134, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said. 

Boris Johnson announced last week that face masks will be compulsory on public transport and in shops as part of his crackdown to fight the Omicron variant of coronavirus. 

Consumers have hit Britain’s High Streets in earnest to get their Christmas shopping done before any new Covid lockdowns can get in their way

Politicians and business leaders joined calls for shoppers to support small businesses this weekend to help them tackle the fresh uncertainty they face heading into the crucial festive trading period

The Government and opposition parties backed Small Business Saturday, which aims to encourage people to spend money in smaller shops, recognising the contribution of independent businesses to communities during the lockdown

Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, said: ‘Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the British economy.

‘Despite Government tax rises and growing costs to firms, small businesses owners up and down the country have adapted and continued to do the UK proud.

‘I am delighted to be supporting small businesses across the UK this Small Business Saturday, and urge everyone to do the same.’

Jonathan Reynolds, shadow business secretary, said: ‘Small businesses are vital to our economic growth and it’s great to be able to celebrate the great work they do today.

‘I’m delighted to be out in bustling Bury Market today shopping and meeting shop owners. As we look ahead to our Christmas shopping, I want to encourage people to buy local and support our fantastic small businesses.’

Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay said: ‘Small and independent businesses and enterprises are the backbone of our local economy.

Ministers have moved to calm fears of the holiday being marred by tough restrictions again this year, with Boris Johnson last night insisting that he wanted Britons to enjoy Christmas as ‘normally as possible’

But Professor Peter Openshaw, one of No10’s scientific advisers, broke ranks, saying he ‘wouldn’t feel safe’ going to a party

He said the chances of getting infected at a festive gathering were already ‘too high’ before the emergence of the super-mutant variant

And Britain’s pubs and restaurants earlier this week lashed out at the Government’s ‘catastrophic’ 48 hours of mixed messaging as firms call off Christmas parties and cancel bookings at hospitality venues across the country

Meanwhile, NHS bosses revealed Britain’s accelerated booster programme to protect against the Omicron Covid variant will not start for another nine days, with pressure mounting on the goal to reach all adults by the end of January

‘They are vital for providing jobs and keeping money circulating in the local area. They also make our towns and cities diverse, distinctive and unique.

‘We know many small businesses are committed to becoming more sustainable and to improving the welfare of their employees, but it is often made difficult and expensive for them to do so.

‘That’s why, this Small Business Saturday, Greens are calling on the Government and local councils to introduce a series of measures to support small businesses to do the right thing.’

Michelle Ovens, director of Small Business Saturday, said: ‘We all need to show small businesses our love this weekend. Not only do they make a massive contribution to our economy, but an immeasurable difference to all our lives.

‘Despite demonstrating incredible entrepreneurialism and agility, alongside the support they’ve shown staff, customers and communities, many are still facing a really tough time.

‘Small Business Saturday is a fantastic chance to get behind these firms and say a big ‘thank you’ for how amazing they are.’

Research by Small Business Saturday supporter American Express found that while small business confidence is starting to rebound, challenges included the cost of goods, rising energy costs and product shortages.

Another 75 cases of the mutant strain were found in England yesterday, taking the UK’s total number up to 134, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said

Boris Johnson announced last week that face masks will be compulsory on public transport and in shops as part of his crackdown to fight the Omicron variant of coronavirus

An estimated £1.1 billion was spent with small businesses across the UK on the same day last year.

Small business minister Paul Scully said: ‘From the pubs, restaurants and shops that make our high streets tick, to leisure and personal care services – like the hairdresser who saved my post-lockdown blushes last year – small businesses are at the heart of our way of life.

‘I urge everyone to shop safely and back their local businesses on Small Business Saturday. The Government is leading the way, supporting firms with ground-breaking new schemes like Help to Grow: Digital which will help our hard-working business leaders to level up with discounted software and free tech support.’

London mayor Sadiq Khan, said: ‘I’m proud to once again support Small Business Saturday – a day when we can all show our support for the independent and locally run shops, cafes, restaurants and other small businesses that make our city what it is.

‘This is more important now than ever before, when so many small businesses have suffered such a difficult year once again. Join me and millions of people across London and the UK as we support the small businesses that make our communities thrive.’

Many of the UK’s six million small businesses take part in the day by hosting events, offering promotions and collaborating with local councils, community groups and business owners.

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