High streets reported their first rise in footfall in more than two years last month but retail parks remained the strongest performer.

High street, retail park and shopping centre footfall were all up in January, marking the best overall performance in two years for retail traffic.

High street shopper numbers rose 0.2% year on year in January, marking the first increase since July 2013 and indicating a significant turnaround from Christmas figures, when footfall dropped 4%.

Figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard showed that the average footfall across all types of location rose to 1.2%, significantly above the 2.2% drop in December.

This result is the first increase following nine consecutive months of decline.

Retail parks were the stand-out performer as shopper numbers soared 5.2%, up from a 2.1% rise the previous month and the three month average of 3%.

Shopping centre footfall was flat, its best performance since January 2014 and up from the 1.6% drop in the previous month.

Vacancy rates

Retail vacancies also had positive momentum in January as the town centre vacancy rate dropped to 8.7%, the lowest reported rate since BRC and Springboard started recording this measure in July 2011.

Springboard marketing and insight director Diane Wehrle added: “The increase in footfall across all retail destination types, the first since December 2011, alongside the rise in spending in January, finally demonstrates what is well known – that bricks-and-mortar shopping environments are still important to consumers.

“The improved vacancy rate is an encouraging sign, but there needs to be caution about being too optimistic as evidence shows the driving force to be an increase in pop-ups and temporary lets in the run-up to Christmas and which are still occupied.”