Desperate shoppers were seen fighting to join queues for limited edition trainers and bargain clothes in popular stores as they were allowed to open for the first time this year.
Extraordinary scenes played out outside JD Sports in Oxford Street, London, as trainers enthusiasts ran to get to the end of the line to try and get inside earlier.
Youths and adults jostled with each other to get their places ahead of the doors being flung open at 9am in an effort to get their hands on rare Air Jordan 1s or Nike Dunks.
Police were also called to deal with a scrum of shoppers queuing outside Manchester Arndale shopping centre this morning as non-essential retailers reopened.
Officers had to help security in calming the crowd as they waited outside the main Market Street entrance as cried of “Why are you pushing?” and “Move back” rang out as social distancing measures were ignored.
And in Birmingham, West Mids, the world’s biggest Primark in the city’s High Street saw at least a hundred people queue up to grab bargains.
Keen shoppers arrived well in advance of this morning’s special 7am reopening time at the huge store.
The retail giant has extended opening hours for the first initial week in an effort to recoup profits lost over the pandemic.
Footfall analysts Springboard are expecting a near 50% uplift during the first week.
And Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said it was a ‘big day’ for reopening businesses, and that many were ‘excited and desperate’ to welcome customers back.
Early morning shoppers run to queue outside the JD Sports store in Oxford Street, London, desperate to get inside first
People rush to get to shops on Oxford Street as they reopen after coronavirus restrictions ease after long months of closure
Shoppers were seen jogging in an effort to get to the front of the lines to get instore first as the lockdown was released
Shoppers at Primark, in Birmingham, as England takes another step back towards normality after months of tough lockdown
‘It’s a big day for the country and it’s a big day for all of these businesses reopening their doors today,’ she told Sky News.
‘They are very excited and desperate to welcome their customers back (with) the focus on safety.’
Ms Dickinson said that retailers were now used to preparing to reopen their doors, having experienced the process during previous lockdowns, but added that customers also had a ‘part to play’.
‘Because they’ve been through this process before… they would have been ready the last week or the week before, and are just keen and enthusiastic to welcome us back,’ she said.
‘Members of the public have a part to play in following the signage, the guidance that we get given queueing if we need to… and all of the safety features that are in place. We have a role too.’
Scores of youngsters started gathering outside Foot Locker on Oxford Street from 7am with the store forced to open earlier than it’s initial scheduled time of 10am.
Queues massed on Carnaby Street outside shoe shop Size, where limited edition trainers are often sold to customers
As shops reopen people camp out to buy trainers at shops in the Arndale Centre, Manchester, in an effort to get in first
People queue to enter Selfridges department store on Oxford Street in London this morning as restrictions eased at last
What can you do from today?
- All non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen, as will hairdressers, beauty salons and gyms.
- Pubs, restaurants and cafes can reopen for outdoor service, but will have to wait until at least May 17 to serve customers indoors.
- Mass testing to be available, with everyone urged to take two tests per week.
- New care home rules will allow residents to have two visitors, rather than just one.
- Self-catering accommodation, including campsites, can reopen, but hotels and B&Bs must remain closed until at least May 17.
- Shops will be allowed to stay open until 10pm, six days a week, in a bid to reduce crowding.
- The maximum number of people allowed to attend weddings and wakes will rise from six to 15.
- Public buildings can reopen, as can outdoor attractions such as theme parks and zoos.
- Controversial hospitality rules such as the 10pm curfew and requirement to buy a ‘substantial meal’ with alcohol will be dropped.
- Clothes shops will be allowed to reopen their changing rooms for the first time in more than a year.
Security had to be brought in after scuffles broke out with enthusiastic shoppers eager to get in.
One security guard who was standing by the store with a guard dog told MailOnline: ‘We’ve had some scuffles and people banging on the windows of the store.
‘It’s mainly kids who are after a particular brand of trainers. But there is a lot of excitement that the shops have reopened. Hopefully the novelty of it will soon wear off.’
Simeon Banks, 22 who had just purchased two pairs of Nike Jordan’s said: ‘I collect and resell trainers. While I do it online I prefer going into shops to touch and feel them.
‘I’m happy that the shops have opened because it’s more fun buying trainers in person.’
Jessica Palmerston, 35 from Walthamstow, East London who arrived at Primark on Oxford Street soon after it opened for business told MailOnline: ‘I have been waiting for Primark to reopen for the past three months.
‘I hate shopping online, I love going into this shop because it’s a real buzz when you see the latest fashions and people getting excited about clothes.’
She revealed that she had bought an assortment of socks, underwear and tee-shirts for herself and her children.
Ms Palmerston added: ‘Pri-Mani is the best and it’s wonderful to be able to return here. There’s nothing like filling up your basket with lots of treats; we deserve it because we’ve suffered enough.’
Nala Bee, 25 arrived at the store with her friend Ryan C.
She said: ‘We got up at 7am to get here before it gets too busy. I’ve really missed the shops not being open. I hate online shopping. I love going shopping, try things on and have a bit of fun. It’s my therapy, it’s what makes me happy.
Student Natasha Larkin, 17, queued to spend £15 on gym wear and shorts at Primark in Manchester this morning
Cleaner Georgina Okie, 48, queued for 45 minutes to be one of the first to shop in Primark in Manchester city centre
Queues outside Primark in Bristol this morning as shops reopen after the third lockdown’s restrictions are gradually eased
Shoppers queue outside a Nike store in central London as coronavirus restrictions are eased across the country on April 12
The sheer number of people queuing for Primark in Bristol this morning looks like it made it difficult for social distancing
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Analysts Springboard think the reopening of retail stores will see owners able to capitalise on the pent up demand amongst shoppers to return to stores.
They said: ‘This pent up demand is evidenced by Springboard’s footfall data for the UK which identified that despite the lockdown with all essential stores closed, activity in UK destinations has increased from week to week for the past five weeks.
‘We know that online spending has increased hugely over the past year with over a half of all spending on non-food products going online in January. This increased shift online was not necessarily due the inherent attractiveness of online versus stores, but a result of the lack of virtually any other opportunity to shop for non-food products (unless you are able to purchase what you need from food stores, health food shops or pet stores).
‘On the back of this, when non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality reopens in England from 12 April we are forecasting that footfall across the UK will increase rise by up to +47.9% in the first trading week. This will equate to an increase in footfall of +128.5% from the same week in 2020 when we were three weeks into Lockdown 1, but it will still be -61.8% below the 2019 level.’
‘I’m after socks and jumpers and am going to buy as much as I can because during this lockdown, I’ve managed to save a bit of money.’
Lesley Black, 47 who was accompanied by her daughter Demi, 20 said: ‘Between us we’ve spent about £200 on underwear and pyjamas.
‘It feels wonderful to be back in the shops and we’re going to spend the whole day shopping. Both of us love spending a day at the shops and we’ve really missed it during the lockdown. Luckily, I’ve got some money saved so I now plan to spend it all.’
Primark appeared extremely popular in other parts of the country too, with shoppers queuing outside the branch in Truro, Cornwall, an hour ahead of its scheduled re-opening.
Cleaner Georgina Okie, 48, queued for 45 minutes to be one of the first to shop in Primark in Manchester city centre.
She said: ‘I am so happy the shops are open. It feels like the first step back to normality. I was desperate to come and shop and buy some jeans. I felt really safe.’
Student Natasha Larkin, 17, queued to spend £15 on gym wear and shorts at Primark in Manchester. She said: ‘It feels great to just walk into a shop and buy something. I have missed it so much. It gives you something to do. It feels a great day ‘.
Cleaner Mauro Silva, 28, also queued up to buy £5 slippers at Primark. He said: ‘It’s cold and I need them.
‘I had finished work so it feels fantastic to just go into a shop again.’
It came against the backdrop of Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning the nation to ‘behave responsibly’ during the lockdown easing today.
The PM urged caution during the ‘major step forward’ as a scientist advising the Government warned the rules must be followed to minimise a possible rebound in case numbers.
People queued outside Nike Town on Oxford Street as shops reopen as lockdown was released this morning
These lucky shoppers managed to get inside Primark before many others in Birmingham and quickly began buying clothes
This is the first time in months pubs and shops across England can open up fully after the Prime Minister launched lockdown 3
‘I’m sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it’s a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed,’ Mr Johnson said.
‘I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’ to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme.’
It will be the third in a series of easings since the third national lockdown was legally imposed in England on January 6.
The next significant date is May 17, when socialising indoors will be permitted under the ‘rule of six’ – if the Prime Minister judges that the vaccination programme is safely breaking the link between infections and deaths.
After three months of full national lockdown, the Government said on Sunday that a further seven people had died in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test. Another 1,730 lab-confirmed cases were also announced.
Around 61% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to official figures suggesting that more than 32 million people have received a jab. More than 14% have had both doses.
Mr Johnson welcomed a ‘record-breaking day’ for second doses after figures reported on Sunday stated a rise of 475,230 jabs.