Garden centre bosses also saw good sales. Stewarts Gardenlands owner Martin Stewart said: "We're well up on two years ago which is what matters because last year it snowed. We've had a record December on both sites. We have our Christmas and catering offer just right."
Alton Garden centre director Andy Bunker said: "Saturday the 10th was a real bumper day and where sales are level more money is being taken which is good news."
He said Christmas tree sales were going well: "For me it means the customer is not purchasing as many so called value trees."
The overall retail increase is largely due to last year’s cold snap, when heavy snow made driving conditions too hazardous, forcing shoppers to stay at home.
Putting this into perspective, footfall on the same Saturday in 2010 was down 14 per cent on 2009’s figure.
Experian said: "This year, Saturday’s year-on-year figure was up 17.3 per cent. As always, it appears that shoppers continue to delay their shopping. With multiple options available in terms of shopping channels, there is no surprise that High streets and shopping centres experience their surge in shopper’s right at the last minute.
"With less than a week to Christmas, the momentum in shoppers should continue to increase; consumers will also be hoping that retailers will be panicked into price cuts, allowing for them to bag the ultimate bargains.
"If the mild weather that is forecast up to Christmas continues to hold true, then planned shopping trips this week will not be jeopardised. Overall, the weekend has seen an exceptional performance especially compared to what has generally been reported in the past four weeks.
"There is every opportunity given the anticipated last minute rush of shoppers for the final shopping week to Christmas, that high street stores and shopping centres are still able to make this festive season a lucrative one."