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Big spend begins as Scots hit the shops

© Alamy Live News.People return to the shops as Level 4 areas move down to Tier 3.
People return to the shops as Level 4 areas move down to Tier 3.

Scots spent an estimated £100 million yesterday as reopened retailers in 11 council areas welcomed back Saturday shoppers.

Shops were busier than on Friday but quieter than usual for the time of year with retailers in Glasgow saying Tier 4 closures drove many Scots online to buy presents. The city was among 11 central belt councils under three weeks of the strictest coronavirus restrictions that saw non-essential shops and the hospitality sector closed.

The move to Tier 3 on Friday did not increase footfall to levels expected by retailers but yesterday was much busier.

However, the shops reported decent business as more public health experts voiced concern that relaxation of rules around Christmas could easily provoke a third wave of the pandemic in January.

Two million people in the west central belt were subject to the strictest Tier 4 restrictions for three weeks in a bid to bring down case numbers and ease the pressure on hospitals.

When shops reopened yesterday many retailers reported a slow start but by lunchtime the streets of Glasgow city centre were busy. Restaurants in the newly classified Tier 3 areas also opened up again yesterday. David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said trading had been “steady but unexceptional”.

He said: “Our own retail sales data suggests some people started Christmas shopping in October and November.

“Store closures over the past three weeks has driven shoppers online, plus continuing Covid restrictions and economic uncertainty are weighing on customer demand.

“With some stores having extended trading hours and it being the penultimate Saturday before Christmas, we’d expect shoppers to spend somewhere approaching £100m across Scotland on Saturday.”

Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said she fears crowded shops could lead to increased transmission of the virus.

She said: “I’m concerned about crowding in indoor places – inside shops – and I wouldn’t be confident that every single retailer is able to carefully monitor how many people are coming into the shop. Some retailers are strict and some have very low monitoring. It’s difficult for retailers who have lots of people who want to come into their shops.”

There were 1,064 new cases of the virus reported yesterday and 39 new reported deaths of people who have tested positive.

The number of people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19 was 994 yesterday, with 52 people in intensive care.

Simons Griauzde, manager of Italian restaurant Barolo, said his restaurant was quieter than he expected yesterday.

He said: “Tier 3 restricts the timing of when we can open to eight hours a day, closing at 6pm and we can’t sell alcohol. The turnover will not be what we would like it to be. It has been quieter than we hoped.”