Shopper numbers have seen a sharp increase
Shoppers have been flocking to the High Street over the Christmas weekend, with numbers far exceeding those from this time last year, figures have shown.
The number of shoppers out on Sunday, 27 December was 17.9% up on the same Sunday last year, said Experian, a research house that measures footfall.
Meanwhile, figures from the research firm Synovate suggest that Monday was the busiest shopping day of 2009.
Experts said shoppers may be racing to beat the VAT increase in January.
Experian said the rise in this year's figures was "exceptional, given that the pre-Christmas build-up performance was a lot slower paced".
Its figures for Boxing Day showed that the number of shoppers was up 18.5% on Boxing Day in 2008.
Synovate's Retail Traffic Index indicates that the number of people out shopping at non-food retail outlets on Monday was 1.2% higher than the previous busiest day of the year - Saturday, 19 December, the final Saturday before Christmas.
"Normally the full week before Christmas is the busiest trading week in terms of footfall. This year, we are expecting the week after Christmas to be the busiest," Dr Tim Denison from Synovate said.
However, he added that this was not down to an increase in consumer confidence, but outlined two key factors.
The first was the increase in VAT, which will return to 17.5% on 1 January, having been reduced to 15% since 1 December 2008. Many consumers were making expensive household purchases before the end of the year as a result, he said.
The second is the fact that this year, retailers did not start their sales before Christmas.
"Last year they slashed their prices in the week before Christmas, because they really needed to get rid of their stock," he said. "They've taken a far more measured approach to the Christmas period this year.
"In this regard, then, the bubble is somewhat artificial and should not be taken to mean that consumers feel the recession is behind them. Sadly, 2010 may well prove even more difficult for retail than 2009 has already been."