The BRC/Springboard-ATCM Footfall and Vacancies Monitor for February to April 2012 reveals that last month there was a 12.6% decrease in the number of town centre shoppers compared to the same period last year.
This is the worst drop in footfall since November 2009.
In contrast, indoor shopping centres, where shoppers could escape the downpours and perhaps park more easily, recorded a small increase in footfall of 0.4% for April.
Over the three-month period and including all types of locations, footfall was 2.0% lower than a year ago, down from a 1.8% increase in the previous three months.
Scottish retailers were particularly badly hit, with the number of shoppers down 12.6% in February-April, followed by an 8.9% decline in the East and 8.2% in Greater London. Wales was the only region to show increased footfall, with a rise of 0.6%.
Shop vacancies in town centres across the UK remained stable at 11.1% in April 2012. The figure, which includes high streets and shopping centres, was unchanged from January 2012 and October 2011. The highest vacancy rates were recorded in Northern Ireland (16.6%), the North and Yorkshire (13.5%) and the West Midlands (12.9%).
The persistently high shop vacancy rates, combined with double digit declines in shopper numbers, confirm how difficult the conditions are for customers and retailers, commented Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
Robertson noted that part of the decline in April 2012 can be attributed to the comparison with a strong performance last year, when the weather was better, Easter was later and there was an extra bank holiday.
Nevertheless, he added, it’s clear that consumer confidence remains low, their disposable incomes are still dropping and fewer people are shopping for non-essential items.