The British Retail Consortium (BRC), in association with Springboard, produced a report that reveals high streets experienced a 3.7 per cent drop in footfall in December 2013 and 3.8 per cent on a three-month basis, which is the worst reduction since August 2012.

Out of town shopping centres also saw fewer shoppers visiting. Footfall fell 1.2 per cent last month and 1.8 per cent respectively on a three-month basis.

Helen Dickinson, director general of the BRC, said: “These figures highlight how the rapid evolution of multichannel is changing the face of shopping, particularly at Christmas.

“Rather than making multiple trips to the shops over the festive period, many of us planned ahead for our gift-buying and took advantage of retailers’ investment in services like click and collect so that they could cover off their festive spending at their convenience.”

Ms Dickinson believes that the timing of Christmas played a key role in the peaks and troughs in shopper numbers during the last month of 2013. As the big day fell on a Wednesday, many people held off completing their shopping until the last few days.

She was keen to highlight that last week’s sales statistics demonstrated that the final results for 2013 were “respectable overall”.

“These figures similarly highlight that continuing caution and changing spending habits were central themes of Christmas trading in 2013,” added Ms Dickinson.

Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, said that November’s warnings of a challenging and difficult trading period came to fruition.

According to Ms Wehrle, the combination of the emphasis retailers placed on online sales and early discounts meant that shoppers delayed their visits to shopping destinations until as late as possible, which negatively affected footfall at the beginning of December 2013.