BOURNEMOUTH town centre saw a healthy pre-Christmas rise in footfall until the deluges of mid-December put off visitors, figures show.

The town also saw a slight year-on-year rise in visitors in January, despite the continued wet weather.

Official footfall figures were up 11 per cent year-on-year in November, up 35 per cent year-on-year in the first week of December and up seven per cent in the second week of December.

But in the third and fourth weeks of December – with rain falling every day – the figures fell by nine per cent and 12 per cent respectively, year on year.

Footfall so far in 2014 has been up 0.2 per cent.

Town centre manager Roger Parker said the entertainment arranged by the Town Centre Business Improvement District – including the Gardens of Light and outdoor ice rink – had drawn people into town.

“The overall strategy of the Town Centre Business Improve-ment District and the events surrounding the Gardens of Light was to try and make Bourne-mouth a distinct destination from other regional centres where there’s very little happening,” he said.

“You know all you’re going to do at West Quay is shopping because there’s nothing else to do.

“We were deliberately trying to position the town as something different from other regional offers.”

Mr Parker said Bournemouth and Poole were both “highly weather-dependent locations”.

“We were still three per cent up over December but that was built on an extremely good first two weeks,” he added.

Footfall figures have only been released as percentage changes, rather than exact counts.

Mr Parker said releasing the full figures would be misleading as there were only two points at which footfall was currently counted and there were many more entrance points into town.

Michael Hitchcock, chief executive at Beales, said the company had enjoyed a better Christmas than a year before and the Bournemouth and Poole stores were among those which helped that happen.

He said: “This year was higher than last year across the country.

“The majority of my stores did better.”

He said shoppers spent money later in December.

Despite the popularity of internet shopping, he predicted an increase in popularity for high street shopping amid what he still saw as an inconsistent economic recovery across the country.