Last month retail footfall dropped to the lowest rate since the EU referendum vote last June, exacerbated by poor shopper turnout at shopping centres.
Retail footfall fell 2% year-on-year in the four weeks to October 28, according to the BRC Springboard footfall and vacancies monitor.
All regions posted declines in shopper numbers with the exception of the East, which reported a 1% rise in footfall and its eleventh consecutive month of footfall growth during the period.
Shopping centres were the main culprit for falling shopper numbers, with footfall declines across the UK ranging from 1% to 3%.
Greater London was the only region to report improved shopping centre footfall, which edged up 0.2%.
The steepest decline in footfall occurred in Northern Ireland, down 6.5%, following by Scotland an the South West, where shopper numbers slumped 3.3% and 3.1% respectively.
“Nearly one in 10 retail premises still lies empty as the burden of business rates continues to stifle investment”
The East and Wales were the only two regions to post high street footfall growth – the prior saw shopper numbers increase 1.4% and the latter was up 0.6%.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “All shopping destinations saw shopper footfall ease back in October, which mirrors the month’s paltry sales performance.
Even retail parks, which have continually bucked the trend until now, struggled to attract as many visitors as the previous year.
“The picture improved slightly for town centre vacancies over the last quarter, but this is to be expected in the lead up to Christmas as landlords are inclined to offer more flexible short-term lets to prop up their rental income over the festive period.
“Yet nearly one in 10 retail premises still lies empty as the burden of business rates continues to stifle investment in new or refurbished stores in town centres and in less economically viable locations.”
Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle added: “October delivered a black trading cloud ahead of the Christmas sales storm; not only was the 2% drop in footfall the worst result for October since 2013 when it declined by 2.9%, but it was also higher than the result for the month of October in subsequent years which ranged between -0.8% and -0.2%.
“Both high streets and shopping centres are clearly under pressure, with footfall during retail trading hours dropping by more than 3% in each.
And the fact that retail park footfall slipped into negative territory – even during daytime hours – whilst prior to November recording seven consecutive months of growth, is definitive evidence of consumers tightening their purse strings.”