Consumer footfall rose sharply last week, indicating that the Christmas rush to stores hoped for by retailers may at last have kicked off.

Week-on-week footfall climbed across shopping locations in the week to December 14, the Smart Steps/Retail Week Christmas Shopper Trends Tracker showed.

Regional shopping centres, where footfall rose 7% week on week, led the way and traffic was 25% up on the average level

In city centres the week on week rise was 6%, a 21% change on the average, while in town centres the improvements were 5% and 9% respectively.

Evening shopping was up 37%, especially in large city centres, in comparison with the autumn average for hours between 6pm and 10pm.

A trend towards weekday shopping evident in the previous week’s Smart Steps data was repeated, indicating that some consumers are keen to avoid the last-minute rush.

Shoppers may have been tempted by pre-Christmas discounting by retailers. Retail Week reported last week that on average prices were slashed 42% last week – higher than the 36% recorded at the same time last year.

The traffic figures are likely to reflect factors such as Christmas drinks and parties as well as shopping. If reflected in retail spend, however, the improvement in footfall will be welcome relief for retailers. On Monday the BRC reported that footfall overall fell 2.9% year on year in November.

Smart Steps measures and profiles the size and movement of anonymous crowds, taken from aggregated mobile phone data from O2 owner Telefónica’s Dynamic Insights Division.

After Christmas there will be a full Smart Steps report covering footfall trends over the seasonal selling period.