Total footfall in December was 0.2% down on a year ago, but the high street saw a modest bounce-back with positive growth for the first time in December since 2011.
This was a fourth consecutive month of decline but a far shallower fall than the 2.2% drop in December 2015.
Only the high street saw a rise in footfall in December, up 0.8% on December last year, whilst footfall in retail parks fell by 0.7% year-on-year.
Footfall in shopping centres fell for the eleventh consecutive month, down 1.9% year on year. This is just above the three-month average of -2.0%.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief-executive of the British Retail Consortium, commented: “Solid festive sales did not translate into a lift in footfall above last year as online continues to grab the lion’s share of growth. Ecommerce accounted for nearly a quarter of all purchases in December, suggesting that more shoppers than ever opted to go online rather than hit the shops.
“Retailers are having to gear themselves up to meet the evolution in shoppers’ requirements from bricks and mortar destinations. This will be key looking ahead, with inflation set to rise and a subsequent squeeze on disposable income; the environment for consumer spending will become increasingly competitive.”
Meanwhile, Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, noted that the final result of a drop in footfall of just -0.2% in December compared with -2.2% in December 2015 was more positive than the results for key trading days over Christmas led people to believe it would be.
She said: “The month began just after Black Friday, which is now generating a similar level of in-store spend to Boxing Day, and so is clearly bringing forward shopping that in the past took place during December.
“This together with the fact that Christmas Day fell at the end of the fourth trading week meant that shoppers deferred purchases in order to snap up any additional discounts – demonstrated by the fact that footfall remained virtually flat until the third week of the month. Also evident is that the availability of discounts throughout December is subduing the significance of our traditional sale days of Boxing Day and New Year’s Day for bricks and mortar trips.”