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UPDATE 1-UK shopper numbers rise on indoor hospitality reopening

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LONDON, May 24 (Reuters) - Shopper numbers across Britain rose 1.1% in the week to May 22 compared with the previous week, helped by the reopening of indoor hospitality after months of COVID-19 lockdown, researcher Springboard said on Monday.

It said shopper numbers, or footfall, increased 2.4% across UK high streets and by 1% in shopping centres, but fell 1.7% in retail parks.

Springboard said there had been a significant 4% increase week-on-week in footfall on high streets after 5 pm in the afternoons.

“The reopening of indoor dining on Monday of last week certainly supported footfall in UK retail destinations in the face of prolonged, and often severe, rain across virtually all of the UK for much of the week,” said Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s insights director.

She also noted a clear gravitation towards larger cities away from local high streets, as consumers sought a greater choice of dining options.

Footfall across all UK retail destinations remained more than a quarter below the 2019 level - before the pandemic started to disrupt traffic last year.

The crisis has hammered Britain’s retail sector, leaving gaping holes on the main shopping streets and costing tens of thousands of jobs.

Non-essential stores reopened in England and Wales on April 12 after more than three months of lockdowns. They reopened in Scotland on April 26 and Northern Ireland on April 30. Indoor hospitality was allowed from May 17.

Official data published on Friday showed British retail sales surged in April as shoppers splashed out on new clothes. (Reporting by James Davey Editing by David Goodman and Gareth Jones)

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