The boss of trainer chain JD Sports insists the high street can avoid a “cliff edge” – as experts predicted a further boost for pandemic-hit stores.

Peter Cowgill reckons it will take until at least next year before the ­fallout from the Covid crisis on retailers becomes clear.

But he 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.

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.

Shoppers in Oxford Street as non essential shops reopen
Shoppers in Oxford Street as non essential shops reopened this week

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 £6.2billion 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 £750million, 25% more than on Monday.

Shop of Britain, Mirror campaign

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 £1billion.

Separate research predicts a wider £44billion 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.

The Mirror is backing high streets as they emerge from a third ­lockdown with a Shop for Britain campaign.

Shopper footfall – people out and about – jumped by 155% on Monday.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at industry experts Springboard, said: “Bricks and mortar still holds a key position within the retail sector.”