Shopper numbers declined “substantially” last month as a “longer term trend” of reduced footfall has started to emerge.
Footfall dropped 6% year on year in the five weeks to March 31, according the latest numbers from the BRC and Springboard, marking the steepest year-on-year decline since the end of 2010.
UK high streets were the worst hit with footfall declines of 8.6%.
A 4.8% drop was recorded at shopping centres, while at retail parks shopper numbers fell 1.8%.
Although there was no footfall growth in any UK region, the most notable decline was in Greater London, where shopper numbers dropped 7.5% year on year.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson put the drop down to shoppers having more options when it comes to shopping.
She said: “We are seeing a longer-term trend of reduced footfall which highlights that shoppers face more choice in terms of how, where and when they shop.
“The retail environment is changing and retailers are investing in innovation and technology adaptations in response to this.”
Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle added that severe weather last month “put paid to any glimmer of hope for an uplift in shopper activity”.
“Hitting the week following the pay day weekend was the worst timing possible as it meant that shoppers who had available budget deferred trips.”
She surmised that the reduced shopper activity this year is “undoubtedly a function of low consumer confidence arising from ongoing economic constraints”.