With packed shops and car-clogged roads, at first glance it looked just like any other weekend before Christmas.
But with the threat of further Covid restrictions looming for many, the nation’s £4.5billion festive frenzy over the last couple of days had more than a hint of panic spending.
Millions headed out to high streets and shopping centres to snap up gifts rather than leave it until the final weekend before Christmas.
Shopper numbers were further swollen by concerns about stock shortages linked to a possible No Deal Brexit.
With the threat of further Covid restrictions looming for many, the nation’s £4.5billion festive frenzy over the last couple of days had more than a hint of panic spending. Pictured: Shoppers in North Tyneside on Sunday
Millions headed out to high streets and shopping centres to snap up gifts rather than leave it until the final weekend before Christmas. Pictured: Shoppers on Oxford Street this weekend
Shopper numbers were further swollen by concerns about stock shortages linked to a possible No Deal Brexit. Pictured: Shoppers at Bluewater in Kent on Sunday
Shoppers in Birmingham city centre were spotted out and about en masse on Sunday
Christmas shoppers on Northumberland street in Newcastle city centre were out in force today as the festive buying spree continued
Shoppers flocked to Oxford Street (pictured) and Regent Street in London to buy Christmas presents, with less than two weeks to go until the big day
With some city centres almost back to pre-Covid days, those who preferred to stay away flooded online to buy gifts before delivery deadlines.
In another sign of near normality, yesterday’s crowds on Oxford Street in London’s shopping heartland and on adjacent Regent Street, now pedestrianised to aid social distancing, also had a chance to admire the festive lights. In Newcastle, thousands braved the rain to support city centre markets and shops as security guards enforced social distancing.
At the lunchtime peak on Saturday, approximately 5,000 people an hour were walking along one main shopping street.
There were similar scenes in Manchester, another Tier Three area, where the centre was described as ‘close to its bustling normal’.
The estimated £4.5billion spent at the weekend will match 2019 figures, said a study by the Centre for Retail Research.
While Kent remains under Tier 3 Covid-19 restrictions, Bluewater has kept open for shoppers looking for Christmas presents
Christmas shoppers were warned by Downing Street on Friday to be careful as London teetered on the brink of being moved into Tier 3 amid a surge in coronavirus cases
London already has a higher case rate than other parts of England living under Tier 3 restrictions. The case rate per 100,000 people in the capital stood at 191.8 on December 6, up from 158.1 the previous week
Bluewater’s car parks were busy this afternoon as shoppers flocked to the shopping centre in Greenhithe, Kent. The county left the national lockdown under Tier 3 restrictions
Data trends show this was made up of £2.5billion in shops, £1.5billion online, £150million in pubs and £400million in restaurants, retail and hospitality.
The figures take account of areas where bars and restaurants have closed.
Professor Joshua Bamfield, CRR director, said: ‘Footfall is down but overall spending will be the same as last year.
‘There are fewer shoppers but they are spending more… whether it is in London, Birmingham, Manchester, York or Edinburgh.
‘People are getting their shopping completed further ahead of Christmas than usual due to uncertainty over tier changes and Brexit.’
He added consumers were also heading to the high street to avoid delivery problems close to Christmas.
Pictures taken on Regent Street in central London also showed crowds of people hitting the shops ahead of Christmas
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan warned Tier 3 restrictions in the run-up to Christmas would be ‘catastrophic’ for the capital’s bars, restaurants and culture venues, as he urged Londoner to do ‘everything they can’ to curb the spread of Covid-19
Christmas shoppers in Manchester today get their gifts in the pouring rain as queues form outside the Arndale Centre and M&S
Meanwhile on Northumberland Street, groups of shoppers were seen repeatedly cutting across the one-way walking systems in order to access popular stores such as Primark and JD Sports
Shoppers on Regent Street in central London. It comes as Christmas shoppers were warned by Downing Street on Friday to be careful as London teetered on the brink of being moved into Tier 3 amid a surge in coronavirus cases
The latest Covid-19 data for Newcastle has shown a dip in positive cases across the last seven days, ahead of the first fortnightly tier review next week. Pictured are shoppers on Northumberland street in Newcastle city centre today
Shoppers on Regent Street in central London today. There are 11 days left to go until Christmas Day
A decision on whether the capital will be moved into Tier 3 will be made on December 16. Pictured are shoppers on Regent Street today
Christmas shoppers on Northumberland street in Newcastle city centre out in force despite being in Tier 3
Shoppers on Regent Street in central London were photographed filling the roads today as thousands were out buying gifts
Christmas shoppers in Manchester today get their gifts in the pouring rain as queues gather outside the Arndale Centre and M&S
Shoppers at the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham city centre. It comes as the UK recorded a further 165 deaths in hospital settings today
It comes as the Government said a further 144 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Sunday.
As of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 18,447 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
It comes after reports that gadget lovers may not get their Christmas presents until Easter as Dover was choked with 24-hour queues over the weekend with 2,000 more lorries than usual crossing between Britain and Europe every day.
Apple has said its £550 Airpods Max are available for shipping from next Tuesday – but the earliest possible delivery date in the UK appears to be between March 16 and March 30 – two days before Good Friday.
Currys PC World, Argos and Amazon have all sold out of PS5 consoles with the delivery of many kitchen gadgets such as food processors, coffee machines, kettles, toaster and utensils delayed into January.
It came as three-mile long queues of lorries snaked on the roads to Dover and the Channel Tunnel through Friday night and into Saturday, laying bare the disastrous crush at the nation’s ports.