Retail footfall suffered its sharpest decline in more than two years in March as the early Easter and cold weather dented traffic.

Total retail footfall slumped 2.7% last month, lower than the 1.1% decline registered in February.

The drop-off marked the sharpest decline in shopper numbers since February 2014 and was the third time in the past six months that footfall has slipped by more than 2% year-on-year.

The BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor said high streets suffered most in March as shopper numbers declined 3.9%.

Shopping centres also recorded a steep drop in traffic, with footfall sliding 3.7% compared with March 2014.

Retail parks again provided the bright spark, enjoying a 1.6% increase in shopper numbers.

However, this was down from the 2.5% uplift the out-of-town locations posted in February.

Easter distortion

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The near four per cent decline in footfall on our high streets and in shopping centres is partially caused by the distortion of the timing of Easter.

“It is, however, also a continuation of a longer term trend caused by on-going structural change within the retail industry.

“Customers don’t differentiate between buying online, on a mobile device or in-store and often combine two or more different channels when they shop.”

Dickinson added that retailers needed to “improve” physical stores to deliver a “more exciting shopping experience” and attract more consumers back to their bricks-and-mortar offers.

Springboard’s marketing and insights director Diana Wherle said: “The widespread coverage across the UK of Storm Katie, and overall a cold March, meant that footfall dropped in all regions and nations.”