The number of shoppers venturing out to the Boxing Day sales fell 6.7% on last year in another challenging period for struggling UK retailers, figures show.
Hardware and technology stores particularly struggled, mainly because buyers do not need to inspect the products in person, according to the UK Retail Traffic Index figures published by Ipsos Retail Performance.
However the leisure and health and beauty sectors bucked the trend with year-on-year growth in stores, and clothing and footwear shops only saw a relatively small drop in footfall of 3.2%.
Ipsos said the build-up of store footfall in the run-in to Christmas was slow, and the last-minute rush to the shops was not as intense as retailers hoped for.
But Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, said: “Boxing Day remains a genuine and important event in the retail year.
“Finite stockpiles mean that shoppers have to be quick off the mark to secure the best bargains, creating a thrill that is sufficient for many to brave queuing up before opening time.”
Barclaycard had predicted almost a quarter of Britons (23%) would shop in the Boxing Day sales, down from 32% last year.
The figures suggest the incentive to buy in the sales has weakened following widespread discounting, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, that continued well into December.
But post-Christmas shoppers were still predicted to go on a £3.85 billion bargain hunt on Boxing Day, spending £2.95 billion on the high street and £900 million online, according to VoucherCodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research.
The New West End Company was also expecting a bumper Boxing Day due to international shoppers, projecting a spend of £55 million.
Myf Ryan, chief marketing officer at Westfield shopping centres, said Boxing Day sales continued to be an important date in the diary.
The company said shoppers spent £500,000 every hour at its centres during the Christmas period, and there had been growth in visitors from Hong Kong and the US.