Blackpool Christmas shopping: How shoppers contended with bad weather and new Covid rules on Small Business Saturday

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Amid fears the new Omicron variant of Covid may deter shoppers from heading out on their Christmas shopping, it was more the weather that those pounding the streets had to contend with on Saturday.

 

As our pictures and video show, plenty got their heads down and hoods up to grab those all-important gifts on the first weekend of December.

New face covering rules also came into force in England on Tuesday in response to concerns over the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

On Sunday, a South African health researcher said early data suggests the Omicron variant of coronavirus is highly transmissible, but has a less than 1% chance of re-infection and typically results in “milder” disease.

Shoppers brave the bad weather

Shoppers brave the bad weather

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, Professor Willem Hanekom, director of the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa said: “We know three things that we didn’t know last week, the first thing is that the virus is spreading extraordinarily fast in South Africa, the increase in cases is much steeper than it’s been in the past three waves so it seems that Omicron is able to spread very easily and virtually all the cases that we see in South Africa right now are Omicron.

“The third little bit of data we have already relates to clinical cases and how severe the disease is. The only data suggests the disease may occur more in younger people and mostly younger people who are unvaccinated and overall so far the disease has appeared to be milder but again I want to say we have to be cautious – these are very early days.”

On the retail front, it was Small Business Saturday with politicians and business leaders calling for shoppers to support small businesses to help them tackle the fresh uncertainty they face heading into the crucial festive trading period.

Shoppers brave the bad weather

Shoppers brave the bad weather

The aim is to encourage people to spend money in smaller shops, recognising the contribution of independent businesses to communities during the lockdown.

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.

Figures show Black Friday sales failed to boost high street footfall despite a resurgence in consumer confidence and bricks-and-mortar shopping.

Total UK footfall fell by 15.7% in November on the same month in 2019 as the harsh weather deterred some customers from shopping in stores, according to BRC-Sensormatic IQ data.

However it was still comparatively strong at the second highest figure for this year, only second to October.