High streets recorded a 0.8% increase in footfall in December – the first positive growth in five years, according to Springboard.
Overall, footfall in December was 0.2% down on a year ago. That represents the fourth consecutive month of decline – but is a far shallower fall than the 2.2% drop in December 2015.
Footfall in retail parks fell by 0.7% year-on-year, below the three-month average of 0.1%.
Footfall in shopping centres fell for the 11th consecutive month, down 1.9% year-on-year. This is just above the three-month average of -2.0%.
Springboard marketing & insights director Diane Wehrle said: “The final result of a drop in footfall was more positive than the results for key trading days over Christmas led us to believe.
“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 shoppers deferred purchases 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 fact 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.
“The +0.8% rise in high street footfall in December – which concluded a year when high street footfall moved from -1.9% between January and December in 2015 to -1.1% in 2016 – suggests that the supposition of the death of the high street has been greatly exaggerated.
“The shift in consumer demand, from focusing on the purchase of physical goods to encompass experiences, has clearly benefited the high street. It has been able to transition quickly via an improved food and beverage offer, which has helped to bring in much needed footfall.”