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U.K. Shopping Streets Emptier Last Month as Consumers Go Online

Shopping in London
A pedestrian passes through a shopping arcade in Covent Garden in London. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

A quest for greater convenience kept Britons away from stores in December as more shoppers chose to order online and collect purchases at their leisure.

The number making shopping trips last month fell 2.4 percent from a year earlier, the British Retail Consortium said today in a statement, similar to declines in October and November. Shopping streets were worst affected, showing a 3.7 percent decline, while visitors to malls and out-of-town locations were down 1.8 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

“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,” Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said in the statement.

Online sales of non-food items rose 19 percent in December, the strongest growth in four years, the BRC said last week as it reported a 0.4 percent increase in total like-for-like sales for the month. So-called click-and-collect services, where people order online and pick up from a store at their convenience, were particularly popular with consumers.

The BRC compiles monthly footfall figures with Springboard, a U.K. provider of customer counting services.

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