Half day footfall fell by six per cent compared to Boxing Day last year, according to data from retail monitors Springboard.
A decline of 16.6 per cent in shopping centres around the UK was the main driver for the drop, while online shopping saw a rise of 11.5 per cent.
Diane Wehrle, a director at Springboard, says: “The continued growth in online transactions is very much in line with the trends we have been recording over the past few years and the impact across retail destinations is intrinsically linked.”
Meanwhile online shoppers are set to spend £984m on Boxing Day, beating Christmas Day sales of £805m, according to search data firm Captify.
He said: “More and more consumers are now buying bargains thanks to their smartphones as over half of online sales were made through mobile devices last year for the first time. Boxing Day, due to its huge popularity amongst consumers, will help accelerate this trend further."
The steep fall in bricks-and-mortar trading mirrors a year-on-year decline posted on the morning of “Black Friday”, 25 November, although the magnitude will concern retailers. On Black Friday sales fell in the morning, but rose overall after an afternoon increase.
“Some footfall is likely to be deferred until after shoppers have made their online purchases first thing this morning, especially due to the popularity of click and collect,” said Springboard’s Wehrle.
Year-on year movements in the ratio of online to bricks-and-mortar sales for the festive period as a whole will be closely watched for signs that the high street can survive the onslaught of internet shopping.
Chinese tourists were expected to spend five times more than British consumers, according Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company representing shopping streets around London’s Oxford Street.
Tyrell said: “Boxing Day is shaping up to be a strong trading day for the West End once again, with average footfall up 8% year-on-year as of 11am, and a total of £55m turnover expected for the day.”
Gordon McKinnon, operations director at intu, owners of Manchester’s Trafford Centre amongst other shopping centres around the UK, was optimistic this morning. (Data is not available for specific regions or shopping centres, so performance of intu centres is not yet known.)
He said: “We’ve seen a real surge in the number of shoppers in the run up to Christmas and today is no exception. Shoppers have been out in force and making a clear statement about their high level of optimism.”
Meanwhile, London stores Harrods and Selfridges tried to outdo each other in the dedication of queuing shoppers, while the latter reported it took in £2m in its first hour of trading from 9am this morning.