Boxing Day shopping visits have fallen at the sharpest rate for nine years amid a rainy start to the traditional post-Christmas sales period.

Data company Springboard said that, in the period up to noon, footfall was down by 10.6% on the same period a year ago.

That was the biggest decline of any Boxing Day since 2010 – which was on a Sunday when trading starts later.

It was worst for high street locations, down 13.6%, while retail parks saw a 5.9% decline and shopping centre footfall dropped by 8.8%.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said the figures might improve slightly throughout the day especially if the rain eases.

Shoppers queue outside a store in Gateshead Boxing Day 2019
Image: Shoppers queue outside a store in Gateshead

But it still looks set to reflect a gloomy end to the year for the high street – battered this year by shaky consumer confidence.

Ms Wehrle pointed to big changes in how consumers shop including “more going online, the increased spending around Black Friday… and the fact that the number of blended families means that many consumers are still celebrating Christmas on Boxing Day with their families”.

More from Business

She said: “In combination, these changes mean that Boxing Day is indisputably a less important trading day than it once was.”

Some shoppers were still prepared to brave the gloomy weather with queues forming outside the Trafford Centre Selfridges store in Manchester and others spotted outside stores in Liverpool before 6am.

It came as a survey suggested some consumers were spending less money on cheap “fast fashion” products because of concerns about the environmental impact.