Retail activity on the UK's High Streets fell "severely" last week, according to research group Footfall.
Consumers appear to be abandoning the High Street
Its Retail FootFall Index for Monday, 9 January to Sunday, 15 January, was down 10.9% compared with the week before, and down 5.2% on the same week in 2005.
Footfall put the declines down to people focusing instead on paying off festive debts and 2006's first bills.
Sales figures for the Christmas period have been very mixed, with some shops performing well and others well down.
Companies who have had a very good festive season include Tesco, Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser and Carphone Warehouse; while others such as HMV, Next and Thornton's have reported doom and gloom.
"Footfall levels were expected to drop last week as shopper levels traditionally level out during the second week of the year, after the Christmas season has ended and retailer trading hours return to normal," said Footfall marketing manager Natasha Burton.
"We would not, however, have expected this fall to be as severe.
"This is likely to reflect the extent to which consumers are reining in spending levels as they focus on repaying Christmas debt and the first bills of the year arrive."
Footfall said the UK's department stores appeared to have fared better, with year-on-year visitor numbers up 3.9%.
"It [the department store sector] has now outperformed the national trend since September 2005, benefiting from on-going, well-researched promotional activity which has succeeded in stimulating interest and encouraging repeat visits."