New figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard show footfall in the month of December suffered its sharpest decline since March 2013.
Total UK retail footfall fell by 3.5% compared with December 2016, while the high street saw a sharper drop, down by 4.6%. Shopping centres suffered a footfall decrease of 3.8%, while retail parks saw a marginal drop of 0.6%.
This is in contrast to the overall increase of retail sales by 0.6% from 26 November to 30 December, suggesting that more people were shopping online during this period.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “In the past, shoppers would have exclusively visited physical stores to ensure stockings were filled for Christmas. Improved delivery options by both purely digital retailers and those with stores and an online offer mean many purchases of last minute gifts are moving online.
“The squeeze on discretionary spending also contributed to the decline in footfall. Households had to use their money more carefully, researching products online, rather than heading out to stores to browse.”
Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, added: “The poor non-food LFL in-store sales growth clearly reflects the more severe drop in footfall during retail trading hours in December, than over the entire 24 hour period; and is further compounded by a declining store capture rate.”