Footfall dropped 2.9% year on year in November as consumers leave it late to do their Christmas shopping.
The figure is down on the three month average of -2.7%, according to the British Retail Consortium/Springboard Footfall Monitor.
However British Retail Consortium director general Helen Dickinson remained optimistic on the outlook for Christmas trading.
She said: “These figures may seem subdued, but factors like enhanced multichannel offers and Christmas day falling on Wednesday this year are changing customer habits and giving people the confidence to leave much of their spending until later.
“Clearly there’s still all to play for: footfall has been building since the end of November and I expect this to continue now that we’re less than a fortnight away from the big day.”
High streets recorded the steepest decline, down 4.2% in November. Shopper numbers across out-of-town stores fell 2.1%, while sliding 1% in shopping centres.
All regions reported a decline in footfall, with Northern Ireland suffering the steepest fall, of 6.3% in November.
Dickinson added: “This figure is in line with October, and tallies with recent signs in our sales data that festive spending has got off to a slow but steady start. While some areas saw an improvement in footfall compared against the previous month, numbers were negative across the board, strengthening the sense that many of us were holding off on major shopping trips until December ushered in the final countdown to Christmas.
“Shopping centres performed the strongest of the three channels, suggesting that many people opted to condense their trips where possible so that they could cover off their Christmas lists under one roof. High streets fared less well, but were up against a comparatively strong rate in 2012.”
Springboard Retail Insights director Diane Wehrle said: “The 2.9% drop in footfall in November is disappointing and suggests that Christmas trading could be challenging if December 2012 is anything to go by when a 0.4% increase in November 2012 preceded a drop in footfall of 1.2%.
“And it doesn’t appear that there is any one particular region in the UK that performed well in November, with all regions recording a decline in footfall over the year.”