Cities and towns across England recorded a surge in evening visitors on the first day of pubs and bars opening after more than three months of lockdown.
According to Springboard, a company that measures the number of potential customers at retail and hospitality outlets, footfall on England’s high streets after 5pm surged by more than a third on Saturday compared with a week ago.
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However, figures comparing the overall footfall with the same Saturday last year showed the number of people out and about was dramatically lower.
Across England, the number of people visiting shopping and leisure destinations was about half the level of last year, and in central London, footfall was 75% lower than in 2019.
Surveys in advance of Saturday suggested many people were not in a hurry to return to bars and pubs. Not all restaurants and pubs opted to reopen on Saturday and those that did had to restrict numbers to stick to distancing rules.
On the first day of lockdown controls lifting for hair salons, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, pubs and bars, footfall had increased by a modest 9.7% week on week by late afternoon. However, after 5pm, Springboard said the rise in footfall in high streets from the week before increased by 35.8%.
Footfall surged by 26% in central London and the West End, and by even more – 29.4% – in regional city centres.
The latest snapshot also showed a dramatic increase in footfall across Scottish towns and cities after the Holyrood government lifted its five-mile travel limit for most of the country on Friday. Springboard said footfall rose by 69.7% from the week before, on the first weekend of trading since the relaxation of the guidelines.
Beer gardens and outdoor restaurants in Scotland will be able to open from Monday, although indoor areas will remain closed until 15 July. Pubs and restaurants in Wales will be allowed to open outdoors from 13 July.
Diane Wehrle, the insights director at Springboard, said the increase in the number of visits was a positive sign for towns and cities, which have been hit by a greater decline in footfall than local high streets.
“[It’s] also an encouraging sign for the hospitality industry, which is trading under strict guidelines and having to limit the number of customers it can accommodate,” she said.
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