UPDATE 1-UK shopper numbers boosted by state-funded dining scheme

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LONDON, Sept 1 (Reuters) – Shopper numbers across all British retail destinations rose 6% in the week to Aug. 29 versus the week before, helped by the final full week of the government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” subsidy scheme, researcher Springboard said on Tuesday.

All three destination types benefited from the rise, with shopping centres, which were also boosted by wet weather, seeing an increase of 9.1%, high streets up 4.8% and retail parks up 5%.

Springboard said the numbers represented an annual decline of 26.1% – an improvement on the year-on-year drop of 30.7% in the previous week.

Britain’s retailers, already struggling with high rents, business taxes, tight margins and online competition, have been hammered by the coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of job losses have already been announced.

“The last full week of the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme led to the most positive footfall result of any week so far with increases in all three destination types from the week before, and year-on-year declines that were the most modest since the start of the lockdown,” said Springboard director Diane Wehrle.

The government scheme offering half-price food ended on Monday.

Springboard also noted that the just-finished three-day weekend showed a further improvement in shopper numbers for all retail destinations with an annual drop of 11% up to 5 pm on Bank Holiday Monday (Aug. 31).

It said footfall in Central London and large cities still has a long way to go to reach anywhere near pre-COVID levels, but the result indicates some seeds of recovery. (Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Estelle Shirbon)

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