The number of people visiting high streets across England on ‘Super Saturday’ was down by more than half on a year ago despite the reopening of pubs and restaurants.
Official industry data suggests city and town centres got off to a relatively slow start after lockdown rules were further eased by the Government at the weekend.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is now facing growing pressure to set out a long term financial support package for shops and the hospitality sector to ensure struggling firms survive.
A group of 120 hospitality and tourism bosses have today written to the Government to ask for more help amid warnings the coronavirus crisis could cost companies more than £70 billion in lost income by the end of 2020.
Meanwhile, a group of former Tory government advisers has urged Mr Sunak to effectively take a stake in coronavirus-hit businesses to stop them going under.
The Chancellor will set out his plans for the UK economy in a mini-Budget on Wednesday.
Rishi Sunak, pictured in 10 Downing Street on May 29, will set out a ‘mini-Budget’ on Wednesday this week
The Chancellor is under growing pressure to set out a long term support package for the high street after footfall numbers suggested people are being slow to return
Pubs, restaurants and hairdressers were allowed to reopen across England on Saturday.
And while there were photographs and video footage of packed streets in some parts of the country, data suggests that overall many people continued to stay away.
Data released by Springboard, a company which looks at footfall and visitor data, and published by The Guardian suggested the number of people visiting high streets was down 56 per cent on Saturday when compared to the equivalent day last year.
Meanwhile, in London the number was down 75 per cent on a year ago.
Hospitality and retail chiefs will be hoping that the number of people returning to the high street will steadily increase in the coming weeks.
But they have made plain to Mr Sunak they will need some financial assistance long into the future in order to avoid mass closures and redundancies.
The UK Hospitality industry body has estimated sales could end up down 56 per cent on last year, potentially slashing revenues by almost £74 billion.
Meanwhile, half of businesses do not expect to reach break even until the end of next year.
An open letter from hospitality bosses to the Government has called for tax bills to be deferred and for VAT to be slashed to give the sector a boost.
The bosses said with the right support from ministers they could help create a wave of new jobs in the coming years.
They wrote: ‘In the decade that followed the financial crisis hospitality consistently created around one in six new jobs thanks in part to the VAT cuts and investment in youth employment and training introduced in the immediate aftermath. We can do so again.’
It came as a group of former advisers to five Tory prime ministers and chancellors called for Mr Sunak to invest £30 billion in struggling firms.
Economic advisers to George Osborne, David Cameron, Theresa May, Philip Hammond and Sajid Javid penned a new report for the Onward think tank.
The former advisers suggested the money should be invested directly into high-growth companies through the British Business Bank, British Growth Fund and British Patient Capital to ensure firms can access capital.
Meanwhile, union leaders have warned there could be a return to 1980s levels of mass unemployment unless Mr Sunak takes urgent action to support workers and businesses.
Leaders of the TUC, Unite, Unison, GMB and Usdaw warned there is only a ‘very short window’ to prevent hundreds of thousands of workers from losing their jobs.
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