Improved weather, new spring ranges and strong promotions lured customers to the shops in March, with the high street reporting its biggest rise in footfall for almost a year.

Footfall increased 1.8% in March compared with the year before, showing a big improvement on the previous month’s figures, when footfall was down 2.9%, the latest BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor found.

However, the strong footfall has not converted into a sales uplift. BRC figures on Tuesday showed UK retail sales fell 1.7% on a like-for-like basis in March.

Retail parks enjoyed the strongest increase in footfall last month, with a 3% rise compared with the same month the year before, while the number of visitors to the high street was up 2.6% - its largest rise in 11 months.

Improved weather conditions compared with last year - when many parts of the UK were affected by snow - hit shopping centre footfall, which was down 0.5%.

Three regions in England reported footfall above the UK average – South East (5.2%), East Midlands (4.5%), and East (6.1%).

Northern Ireland experienced its first rise in footfall since July 2013, reporting an increase of 2.4% on the previous year. Scotland saw a 2.1% drop in footfall, while Wales reported a decline of 2.7%, up on the 8.8% decline in February.

Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium director general, said: “These are strong results. They confirm what retailers have been reporting to us, that a combination of good pricing and promotions, with well-received new ranges, has driven a significant increase in shoppers on high streets and in out-of-town shopping centres.

“With the shift in Easter to April this year, it will be important to look at April’s results as well to understand the full footfall picture. Retailers will be working hard to support this positive trend, and encourage people to take advantage of shopping opportunities over the Easter break.” 

Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, said the results showed that the improved consumer confidence, increasing house prices and lower unemployment were all starting to have a positive impact.