Shopper numbers across Britain fell 4.6% last week versus the week before, with rail strikes and cold snowy weather dealing another blow to the country's retailers, market researcher Springboard said on Monday.
It said shopper numbers, or footfall, in the week to 17 December, a key Christmas trading period, was 0.9% lower than last year and 20.1% lower than the 2019 level.
Springboard said high streets were hit hardest, with footfall down 10.2% week on week.
With UK inflation running at 10.7% and consumer confidence close to record lows, retailers were already fearing a muted Christmas, with a raft of surveys showing most consumers plan to do less holiday shopping this year.
Several British retailers, including and Primark, have cautioned on the outlook in recent months, highlighting the stress felt by many households as the cost-of-living crisis eats into their finances.
Official data published on Friday showed retail sales slid unexpectedly in November, despite the men's soccer World Cup and Black Friday sales promotions.
This showed the stress felt by many households as the cost-of-living crisis eats into their finances.
In the latest warning sign that Britain's economy might have entered a recession, retail sales volumes dropped by a month-on-month 0.4% from October.
A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to a 0.3% rise.
Sales had risen by 0.9% in October, a bounce from September when sales were hit by a one-off public holiday to mark the funeral of Queen Elizabeth.
"The fact that not even the World Cup and Black Friday Christmas shopping could produce an increase in sales will come as a major disappointment to retailers, especially considering the increase last month," said Lynda Petherick, retail lead at consultancy group Accenture in the UK and Ireland.