Leeds city centre shoppers 'surprised' by lack of queues as non-essential retailers reopen

Shoppers headed into Leeds city centre on Wednesday as the second national lockdown was lifted and non-essential shops were reopened.

Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 6:18 am

Leeds is now subject to Tier 3 level Covid restrictions which means households are not able to mix indoors and pubs, bars and restaurants cannot reopen.

However, high street and independent shops are now open - with strict COVID safe measure in place.

There were plenty of shoppers in the city centre by midday as people began their Christmas shopping.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Shoppers in Leeds city centre as non-essential retailers were allowed to reopen on December 2.

However, it was not as busy as you might expect for a December lunchtime heading into the festive season.

The long queues predicted by some largely failed to materialise, and some shops continued to look a little forlorn as small pockets of masked shoppers shuffled past.

On Briggate, there were queues forming outside Zara and Debenhams - which recently entered liquidation - but these were fast moving.

Harvey Nichols and John Lewis also saw a steady footfall, though neither store was overwhelmingly busy.

Shoppers in Leeds city centre as non-essential retailers were allowed to reopen on December 2.

There were plenty of people walking around with Primark's brown paper bags but there was not a repeat of the long queues seen after the first national lockdown.

Shoppers said they were "pleasantly surprised" by the small scale of the crowds.

Nicola Irvine, 37, from west Leeds, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "I came into town because I just wanted to get my Christmas shopping over and done with.

"It's not been as busy and I thought it would be.

Shoppers in Leeds city centre as non-essential retailers were allowed to reopen on December 2.

"I did think there would be big queues so I am pleasantly surprised.

"I did do a lot of online shopping for Christmas but I like to see a lot of things in person before I buy so I am glad stores are open. I can't do my Primark haul online."

She added: "I'm glad to hear about the vaccine but why have we waited for this before we considered the impact on people's jobs?

"Just look at Debenhams. It's absolutely devastating, thousands of people will lose their jobs.

"I look around and wonder 'what will the city centre look like when this is all over?"

Amelia Tooze, 27, and sister Isabelle Tooze, 25, also found the city centre much quieter than expected.

Amelia, from Yeadon, said: "We headed in to do some Christmas shopping at about 9 o'clock because we thought it would be busy but it's been absolutely fine.

"It's been really quiet. We've been in Zara and H&M.

"Honestly, it's just nice to get dressed up and do something."

Isabelle, from Moortown, added: "Yeah it's so nice to do something other than a long walk in the countryside."

Tom Barker, 26, from Rawdon, said: "I came into town to buy a birthday present as the one I ordered online didn't arrive in time.

"I've been in a few shops but only queued for Debenhams.

"It was quite busy inside, I think because of the sales.

"I'm going home now because I don't like shopping that much. I wish the pubs were open."

One local businessman, who did not want to be named but frequenters of Leeds will know as one the Hot Chestnuts Men, said: "We’ve been here throughout lockdown as we’re a food business but no one has been interested.

“I’ve manned this cart for 15 years and I’ve worked with the family business for 50 years, since I was 16.

"It’s just not the same after Covid. We couldn’t work the summer fairs and have less trade.

"It’s only early days today but I’ve told my boss not to expect a lot. I think trade will pick up over the weekend when people are off work."

Leeds City Council is urging people to shop safely and plan journeys in advance as footfall is expected to increase over the next few weeks and journeys may take longer than usual.

To avoid getting caught in the Christmas rush, people are being encouraged to plan their journeys in advance and avoid travelling during peak times where possible.

Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Leeds City Council’s executive member for climate change, transport and sustainable development, said: "I would like to reiterate the message of planning journeys in advance before travelling and where possible, considering walking or cycling in to the city centre to ease the pressure on our public transport system and our roads.

"Please also consider supporting local businesses and shopping locally where you can.”

“Connecting Leeds projects on The Headrow, Corn Exchange and Park Row are continuing at pace and have already included plans to create more pedestrian space, wider footways, and safer crossings.

"Where possible, pavement widening has been prioritised and is almost fully complete in the main retail areas.

"This means people visiting our city centre in the coming weeks will have more space to safely shop and social distance from people outside of their household.

“Thank you to people for their ongoing patience while these works are carried out.

"Please help us to keep reducing the spread of the virus in Leeds and safely support businesses while these works are completed.”

Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.