Footfall plunged 5.2% in March as the cold snap put shoppers off hitting the high street, according to the BRC Springboard Footfall Monitor.
The performance is the weakest since April 2012, when footfall declined 6.9%.
Shopper numbers weakened in all locations. However, the high street suffered the greatest decline, with footfall down 7%. Shopper numbers in out-of-town locations dropped 4.2% and shopping centres dipped 2.4%.
BRC director-general Helen Dickinson said: “The prolonged cold was the main culprit for deterring shoppers, especially compared against the far milder March of 2012. Although footfall did pick up around the Easter weekend, it couldn’t fully compensate for a weak showing across the month as a whole.
“It’s not all bad news: our March sales figures were fairly strong, even if you strip out the data for the Easter weekend, which fell earlier this year than in 2012. This suggests that, when people did venture out, they bought things, although the weather brought mixed fortunes for different categories, as food did well but spring and summer fashions fared badly.”
Footfall was down across all regions of the UK in March and, on a three-month basis, only Greater London experienced a rise in shopper numbers.