As coronavirus restrictions eased, many retailers were allowed to open their doors for the first time since early January.
The banking firm Revolut analysed the data of thousands of its customers in parts of the Black Country and Staffordshire between April 12 – the first date non-essential retail could reopen – and Sunday, comparing it to the average weekly spend in February 2020, before the first coronavirus lockdown started.
In the Black Country, shoppers in Dudley spent 113 per cent more on average last week than normal, in Walsall it was 87 per cent more, Wolverhampton 80 per cent more and in Sandwell 67 per cent more. And over in Staffordshire, shoppers in Cannock spent 171 per cent more on average last week than normal, in Stafford it was 143 per cent more and in South Staffordshire it was 94 per cent more.
TK Maxx was the most popular shop in Wolverhampton, Walsall, South Staffordshire and Cannock. Primark proved more popular in Sandwell, Dudley and Stafford, according to Revolut’s data.
Meanwhile, independent stores say people from across the region have been supporting them – as they look to make up for lost trade over the last four months.
Mark Hodgkiss, owner of Mode Menswear, in Tettenhall, said: “I was concerned about trade this time as people aren’t going on holiday this year, pubs and restaurants aren’t fully opened yet – but last week was like a week in December. It is lovely to see people out and about again.”
Claire Thorne, owner of Archie’s Attic shop and cafe in Enville, added: “The shop has been really well supported and we are so grateful to be back open. I think a lot of people are really eager to come back out and support local businesses.”
Kerry Goodyear, owner of Sorellas florist in Hednesford, said: “We have had lots of enquiries again for weddings, people are now starting to look forward as they know their weddings will definitely be going ahead this time.
“We are currently back to back with appointments and enquiries with clients, it’s nice that they can now come into our studio and see things firsthand rather than do everything on Zoom again.”
Shopping centres across the region have also welcomed the boost in trade.
Richard Scharenguivel, the manager of the Mander Centre in Wolverhampton, said: “The people of Wolverhampton have been incredibly supportive of our shops and the full reopening has been a welcome boost to the city’s economy.
“At the same time, the opening of the new Frasers has been welcomed by shoppers as the multi-brand and concept store offers a completely fresh and up-market retail experience. We are looking forward to a busy weekend and strong trading into May as we enter the first full month after restrictions have been eased.”
Steve Hargreaves, operations manager at intu Merry Hill, said: “It’s been great to welcome shoppers back to Merry Hill. We had thoroughly planned and prepared our reopening and we’re really pleased with how well the first two weeks have gone.
“Our visitors continue to enjoy their much-missed shopping experience with us, with many of our shoppers also snapping up bargains in the sales as well.”
Among shops reopening last week was Cannock’s new £160 million designer outlet, which opened its doors for the first time on April 12.
The footfall at the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet West Midlands was “beyond expectations”, bosses said.
Mike Thomas, the centre's manager, said: “Our footfall was beyond our expectations throughout the whole first week and we were delighted to see guests enjoying themselves and shopping safely.
“Our West Midlands centre was amongst our most visited designer outlets and it’s fantastic to see local people settling in to their new jobs and welcoming visitors from across the region.”
Retail spending increased 92 per cent across England as a whole, the Revolut’s figures show.
Revolut said the data showed there was strong demand right across the country – with many people eager to spend savings built up since non-essential shops closed on January 5.
Revolut spokesman Nicholas Taylor said: “Importantly, spending was up across the whole week – rather than just the first day – suggesting that consumer confidence is resilient.
“This is great news for the thousands of local pubs, cafes and shops, and the millions of people they employ.”