The high street can avoid a coronavirus crisis 'cliff edge', the boss of JD Sports has predicted.
But Peter Cowgill believes it will take at least a year before the fallout from the pandemic on retailers becomes clear.
Speaking as experts predicted a further boost for pandemic-hit stores, Mr Cowgill insisted people still wanted to hit the aisles, and shops were viable if rents were cut.
He told the Mirror : "I don’t see the cliff edge that some are predicting. We will only really know in 2022, certainly not this year."
One big factor is shop rents, with pressure on landlords to cut them.
Bury-based JD Sports refused to pay rent on stores forced to shut temporarily because of the pandemic but has hammered out deals with owners of around 75% of branches.
Mr Cowgill said rent cuts for other retailers would play an important role in preventing closures.
"The way to create the demand is to lower the pricing of the property," he said.
"There is an inevitability about it."
His backing for the high street is important as JD’s core customers are younger people who are more likely to shop online.
The retailer has 400 JD and Size? branded stores in the UK and Ireland, and nearly 2,400 sports shops around the world, and raked in nearly £6.2bn of sales in the year to the end of January.
Shoppers flocked to stores yesterday with the second day of restrictions lifting in England.
Around eight million people were predicted to visit shops and spend £750m, 25pc more than on Monday.
Manchester city centre saw its busiest day of trading since the pandemic as shops and pubs re-opened.
Footfall was up nearly 200pc on last week and even up 20pc on the same day in 2019.
The website VoucherCodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research forecasts a bigger boost this Saturday, with nearly 11 million shoppers spending more than £1bn.
Separate research predicts a wider £44bn spending spree now restrictions on hospitality have eased.
Reward scheme Virgin Red estimates the average person will spend £670 over the course of two weeks.
Shopper footfall – people out and about – jumped by 155pc on Monday.
Diane Wehrle, insights director at industry experts Springboard, said: "Bricks and mortar still holds a key position within the retail sector."