2005 ended badly for retailers, according to early figures.

The number of shoppers hunting for bargains after Christmas day fell markedly in comparison with 2004, according to analysts Footfall and SPSL.

Footfall said 12.4% fewer shoppers were hitting stores from December 26 to 30. SPSL claimed the drop was 7.8%, but included Christmas Day in its figures.

Chocolatier Thorntons has added fuel to the fire by becoming the first retailer to officially own up to poor Christmas sales.

In an unplanned trading update, the company said sales were down 4.9% in the 26 weeks up to and including Christmas Eve in comparison with the same time last year. The period accounts for 60% of its first half sales.

Chairman Chris Burnett refused to reveal profit figures, saying a full trading statement was scheduled for January 17.

Thorntons described the sales climate as “challenging”.