CITY centre traders have welcomed a large rise in footfall in the run up to the festive period, with Cornmarket still busy despite some stores relocating to the new Westgate Centre.

But there are fears that the high numbers of visitors will not continue into 2018.

Between December 4 and December 10, more than 720,000 people visited the city – a 13 per cent increase and 86,000 more shoppers than in the same week last year.

The busiest day in that week was Saturday, December 9, with 145,514 visitors – and the peak hour of 2pm saw 15,212 people in the city.

Sandie Griffith, secretary of the Covered Market Tenants Association, said: "These latest footfall figures are very reassuring – the market has been busy in the run-up to Christmas.

"I walked down Cornmarket that weekend and it was very vibrant – if there are more people coming into the city centre we hope some of them will find their way to the Covered Market."

Frank Smith, operations manager for Boswells department store in Cornmarket, said: "Westgate is drawing a lot more people into Oxford as a shopping destination."

Traders had feared the new £440m shopping centre could have an adverse effect on other parts of the city centre, including the Covered Market.

Steven Port, from Cards Galore, which is based in the market, said while trade had been up in the weeks before Christmas this had not continued into the end of December.

Ansari Junaid, who owns clothes and gifts shop Ansari agreed, adding: "There are lots of people coming to Cornmarket and Westgate but that doesn't really seem to be translating into them visiting the market.

"Hopefully we will see it have a positive impact in the future but time will tell."

Clothing chains Next and River Island left large empty units in Cornmarket Street when they relocated to the Westgate Centre, but the latest footfall figures showed shoppers were still visiting the street in their thousands.

Footfall counters in Cornmarket, Queen Street and St George’s Place off George Street indicated Cornmarket was still the busiest of the three.

City council leader Bob Price said: "As expected, the opening of the Westgate Centre has given a massive boost to the number of people coming into the city and the monitoring data show clearly that this increase has been felt widely across the city centre in the run up to Christmas.

"The empty shop units created by businesses moving to Westgate are filling up fast and from our discussions with landlords it seems that very few will remain empty for long.

"Demand for retail space in the city centre is strong and we hope that more independent traders will be attracted by the increased availability of shop units in prime locations.”

Figures from December 4 to December 10 also showed footfall for Oxford over the past 52 weeks was 3.7 per cent up on the previous year, while footfall for the year to date is 4.1 per cent up on the previous year.

Andrew Gant, leader of the city council's Liberal Democrat group, said: "I would give these figures a cautious welcome.

"Westgate has only been open a short time, and Christmas is not normal trading conditions.

"The full impact on footfall and trading across the city will become apparent over the longer term."