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Continuing the surprisingly strong festive retail results of last week, the BRC – Springboard footfall numbers for December have found the first festive rise in high street footfall for five years.

Overall footfall in the five weeks from 27 November to 31 December was down 0.2% on a year ago, which represents the fourth consecutive month of decline. However, this month’s figure is above the 3-month average of -0.5% and considerably better than the 2.2% drop seen in December 2015.

Only the high street saw a rise in footfall in December, up 0.8% on December last year.

Footfall in retail parks fell by 0.7% per cent year-on-year, while footfall in shopping centres fell for the eleventh consecutive month, down 1.9% year on year.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Solid festive sales did not translate into a lift in footfall above last year as online continues to grab the lion’s share of growth. Ecommerce accounted for nearly a quarter of all purchases in December, suggesting that more shoppers than ever opted to go online rather than hit the shops.

“It was a more positive story for the high street, which saw a modest bounceback with positive growth for the first time in December since 2011, after managing to draw in last minute shoppers.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard added: “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 that shoppers deferred purchases in order to snap up any additional discounts –demonstrated by the fact that footfall remained virtually flat until the third week of the month.

“The +0.8% rise in high street footfall in December 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 as its offer has been able to transition quickly via an improved food and beverage offer which has helped to bring in much needed footfall.”

Morning update

After last week’s flurry of Christmas trading updates, newsflow settles down once more this week and it’s a quiet start to the week this morning.

Later today, investors in Irish fruit importer Fyffes (FFY) get the chance to vote on its proposed acquisition by Sumitomo.

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 has opened flat at 7,339pts.

The supermarkets have had a low-key start to the week, with all three listed players down led by Tesco (TSCO), down 1.4% to 203.1p, then Sainsbury’s (SBRY), down 0.9% to 262.1p and Morrisons (MRW), down 0.6% to 240.5p.

There’s little other dramatic movement in the grocery sector amongst the big players, the largest moves including TATE & Lyle (TATE), up 1.2% to 702.5p, Imperial Brands (IMB), up 1% to 3,627.5p and Marks & Spencer (MKS) up 1% to 342.4p.

The biggest gainers are Devro (DVO), 2.3% up to 198.75p, John Menzies (MNZS), 2.2% up to 605p and Applegreen (APGN), 1.8% up to 415p,

Fallers include Real Good Food (RGD), down 2.7% to 33.1p, Glanbia (GLB), down 2.3% to €15.91 and Greene King (GNK), down 1.4% to 705.5p.

This week in the City

The deluge of festive trading updates of early January trickles towards its end this week, with the major focus being trading updates tomorrow from newly floated City success story Hotel Chocolat (HOTC) and high street food-to-go stalwart Greggs (GRG).

Premier Foods (PFD), which has recently raised prices on a number of key lines, is also expected to issue a trading update on Wednesday.

There is little else in the calendar currently. Internationally, this week brings full year sales numbers from Beiersdorf on Tuesday, fourth quarter results from newly merged Ahold Delhaize (AD) on Thursday and third quarter sales from Remy Cointreau.

In economic news tomorrow will see the Office of National Statistics release inflation figures for December. The official ONS retail sales for the month will be released on Friday.