A surge in consumer spending during the week before Christmas failed to offset a decline in UK retail footfall during December, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Footfall declined 1.2% in December compared to the prior year, as shoppers made fewer visits to the high street.

Shopping centres were the most affected as footfall fell 2.8% year-on-year, the BRC Springboard Footfall Monitor found. Out-of-town and high streets edged down 1% and 0.5% respectively.

Footfall increased 7.5% during the last week before Christmas, as many consumers left their shopping until the last minute. The rise, however, was not enough to drive footfall up from last year.

"It wasn't a bumper Christmas but it wasn't a disaster either," BRC director general Helen Dickinson said. "Our December retail sales figures showed very modest sales growth for the market as a whole. 

"High streets have a particular appeal at Christmas. They had a smaller drop in footfall than shopping centres or out-of-town locations but, across the year as a whole, it's a different story. At minus 3.3%, high streets suffered the biggest drop-off in shopper numbers.

"Generally, weak spending power is keeping people away and compounding long-standing difficulties in many of our town centres. This month's retail failures confirm the challenges are far from over."

The government should help footfall improve by freezing business rates in April, as another steep rise will lead to fewer jobs, less investment and troubled high streets, Dickinson stressed.