Footfall at Hammerson-owned shopping centres edged up last year, buoyed by a focus on seasonal events and “innovative” new pop-up stores.

The mall owner and operator hailed an outperformance of the wider UK market as footfall in its British locations climbed 0.4% in 2017.

Hammerson, which is in the process of acquiring rival Intu in a £3.4bn deal, welcomed more than 300 million visitors to its shopping centres across Europe during the year, including Brent Cross, Grand Central Birmingham, The Bullring, Victoria Gate and The Oracle. 

It said it “directly and positively” impacted footfall and sales through a series of “targeted activities”.

The company highlighted its Christmas lights switch-on at Cabot Circus in Bristol, which drove footfall up 4% year on year, and the ice rink at Southampton’s WestQuay shopping centre, which attracted more than 46,000 skaters.

Despite its success in driving shoppers to its locations, Hammerson said store sales slipped 1.3% in December across its UK portfolio.

Department store tenants in Hammerson’s centres enjoyed rising festive sales, however, growing 3.7% in December.

Across the year as a whole, Hammerson said retail sales fell 2.6% in the UK, although it insisted that represented an outperformance compared with the wider market.

Sales of sports fashion products grew 1.8% at Hammerson’s centres in 2017, while revenues from menswear jumped 3.8%.

Hammerson boss David Atkins said: “Consumers are spending more discerningly – exciting brands are winning market share – and footfall is drawn to centres which offer the full line-up of retail brands alongside entertainment.

“It is no coincidence that we have purposely positioned our shopping centres to respond to these trends, dedicating our time to carefully curating the right brands, adding more leisure space and creating an engaging environment for consumers.”