(Bloomberg) --

U.K. retailers embraced the government’s move to ease restrictions after omicron hijacked footfall over the holiday season, saying they hope customers will swiftly return to their stores.

The government will no longer ask people to work from home or wear face masks in shops or public transport from Jan. 27, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday. Covid passes proving vaccination status or a recent negative test to enter events or venues will also be scrapped. 

Johnson said the move marks a transition to living with the virus as case numbers decline and hospitalizations show signs of receding. People’s return to offices, bars, restaurants and shops could help fuel retailers’ recovery from a period marked by pandemic restrictions. 

“We absolutely welcome the changes that are being made and I think we will see a likely increase in office occupancy,” John Bason, chief financial officer of Primark owner Associated British Foods Plc, said by telephone. “We see people start to plan holidays again, and that occasion for apparel is important.”

The New West End Company, which lobbies on behalf of businesses in London’s key shopping district, expects the return of shoppers together with government support will help the district reach 7.5 billion pounds ($10.2 billion) of turnover this year, according to its chief executive officer. 

The omicron variant’s spread in December took its toll, with the number of people visiting London’s major shopping district down by almost a fifth on the last weekend before Christmas compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Clothing retailers like Superdry, best known for its jackets emblazoned with Japanese characters, are looking to reap the fruits of their high-street efforts in the near future. Superdry opened a flagship store on London’s Oxford Street in November, after last year was marked by shop closures.

Julian Dunkerton, the company’s chief executive, is betting customers will come back to high streets, just like they did before omicron. “We’re very encouraged by the data that we had the last time, and there’s no reason it will be different this time,” he said in a phone interview. “They’ll probably return quicker.” 

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.