The mayor of London was among thousands of shoppers who made their way to England’s high streets on the first Saturday after the second national lockdown was lifted.
In areas such as York, Colchester and Bournemouth, people went out in droves to buy items for Christmas, and in London Oxford Street was filled with people making the most of the relaxed restrictions that came into force last week. Among them was Khan, who took selfies with people out shopping.
He said: “It’s quite clear speaking to shopkeepers, businesses and those in retail, they’ve had a horrendous nine months, they’re keen to make sure this golden month and this golden quarter they can make up some of the ground lost.
“They’ve seen the collapse of international tourism, the collapse of domestic tourism, and that’s why they really need our support. Unless we support our shops, we can’t be surprised if, due to a combination of Covid and lack of business, shops close and people lose their jobs.”
The warning came after 26,500 jobs were put at risk at retailers including Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group and Debenhams, which have been hit hard by the pandemic.
Khan said it was important that people continued to follow the rules, with the majority of England under tiers 2 and 3 of the new restrictions, which limit social contact between households but allow non-essential stores to open.
He said: “It’s really important that we don’t think that this virus is behind us or that we’re over the worst necessarily.”
Shoppers were also out for Small Business Saturday, an annual event that takes place on the first Saturday of December, now in its eighth year. A record 17.6 million people supported small independent businesses at last year’s event, spending an estimated £800m.
Michelle Ovens, director of Small Business Saturday UK, said: “We are optimistic that this has been one of the biggest days for a long time for small businesses.
“The rising groundswell of awareness and affection we’re seeing for small firms from the public too is also a positive indicator – research we did with American Express shows that almost two-thirds of people now support them more due to the pandemic.
“Shopping local is especially important as many small firms are facing a compressed Christmas trading period. These small firms are at the heart of communities and local economies, so all of our individual actions can add up and have a massive impact.”
Christmas is three weeks away and shoppers are being urged to shop locally to save small businesses that have struggled during this period. Simply Business, an insurance provider, estimated two out of three smaller firms and self-employed workers have had to stop trading at some point in the past six months.