Covid Scotland Boxing Day: Quiet streets in Scotland's major cities as less shoppers predicted to brace sales due to Omicron spread

Scotland’s major cities experienced a mixed bag of shopping on Boxing Day as experts predicted millions were ditching the high street and going online due to soaring cases of the Omicron Covid variant.

Sunday, 26th December 2021, 1:44 pm
Photos of Edinburgh and Glasgow city centre hotspots on Boxing Day as less shopper predicted to hit the shops due to a rise in Omicron Covid cases (Photo: KatieLee Arrowsmith, SWNS and Glasgow City Council Webcam).
Photos of Edinburgh and Glasgow city centre hotspots on Boxing Day as less shopper predicted to hit the shops due to a rise in Omicron Covid cases (Photo: KatieLee Arrowsmith, SWNS and Glasgow City Council Webcam).

Major city centre hot-spots in both Glasgow and Edinburgh looked barren on Boxing Day following predictions less people would physically head to the shops between Christmas and New Year amid concerns over Omicron case numbers.

Photos taken of bargain-hunting shoppers showed a relatively quiet Princes Street in Edinburgh, in comparison to the large queues witnessed outside some of the city’s most prominent outlets in previous years.

Management running the city’s St James Quarter reported an “encouraging reaction” to Boxing Day sales.

Nick Peel, managing director at St James Quarter said: "This is St James Quarter's first festive season and we've been blown away by the positive response and support so far. We've seen a really encouraging reaction to the Boxing Day sales, particularly across womenswear and beauty.

"With even more brands opening within The Quarter over the past few weeks, we look forward to welcoming even more guests through our doors over the coming days."

On the other side of the country, a webcam run by Glasgow City Council of George Square depicted a ghost town image on Boxing Day of Scotland’s largest city.

But elsewhere in Glasgow, shopping centre Braehead saw queues of around 200 socially-distanced shoppers waiting from 5:30am for the doors of Next and JD Sports to open.

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Peter Beagley, Braehead’s centre director said: “The tills were ringing in stores at the Braehead Centre today as people headed out to the sales before dawn.

“Hitting the shops on Boxing Day is as traditional as turkey, stuffing and Brussels sprouts and this year was no different.”

The scenes came as consumer website predicted people across the UK were abandoning the high street to shop online due to Omicron cases soaring and additional restrictions put in place.

James Andrews, senior personal finance writer at, said: “With Omicron cases soaring and additional restrictions expected in the coming days, it’s no surprise that Brits are ditching the high street to shop online."

However, separate research into 2,000 adults across the UK showed shoppers overall plan to spend an average of £247 each in the end-of-year sales – an increase of £85 on last year.

The research, commissioned by Barclaycard Payments, showed Boxing Day remains the most popular day to start sales shopping for almost four in ten people (37 per cent) – up on the 27 per cent who said the same in 2020.

Harshna Cayley, head of online payments at Barclaycard Payments, said: "The rise in spending when compared to the last two years is a reassuring sign for retailers.

"It shows that, despite inflation increasing and worries about the new COVID-19 variant, consumers are keen to continue the tradition of sales shopping; even when some of the larger retailers are closing their physical stores on Boxing Day itself.

It comes as several major retailers opted to stay closed in Scotland on Boxing Day for the second consecutive year.

Major supermarket chains Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi and Morrisons all kept their outlets closed north of the border, with Asda among the few to reopen.

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