UK retailers are reporting fluctuating custom following a better-than-anticipated December, according to analyst reports.

According to retail analyst FootFall, retailers enjoyed more visits during the first two days of sales, with an 8% rise in shopper numbers. However, this slowed during the second half of the week, leading to a 12.4% drop.

Footfall marketing manager Natasha Burton said: "Despite many retailers starting their traditional January sales before Christmas had even arrived, we still witnessed a rush back to the High Street from Boxing Day onwards, with consumers eager to snap up more bargains."

However, she referred to the cold phase of weather that followed, which she said drove down sales. This was followed by another increase of 6.6% year-on-year.

She added: "Today, the majority of people have returned to work, as well as most schools re-opening mid-week so we should now see figures returning to normal levels. 

"However, it will be interesting to see how much mileage retailers can squeeze out of their January sales this year and whether weekend figures will continue to rise throughout the month as people get back to their usual routines."

Meanwhile, figures from SPSL's Retail Traffic Index confirm that December 2005 was a busier shopping month than many retailers could have hoped for.

Shopper numbers were down just 0.1% on December 2004 and were up by 31.2% against November 2005. For the final two weeks of the year retail traffic was 3.6% higher overall than the corresponding weeks of 2004.

Dr Tim Denison, director of knowledge management at SPSL, said: "…the cold snap of weather helped stimulate interest in winter wear amongst the high street fashion stores."

Denison added that consumers "temporarily forgot about their confidence crisis and adopted a 'bargains to be had' approach to Christmas this year".