Footfall fell 1.3% last month year-on-year – the steepest decline since June 2016 when shopper numbers dropped 2.8%.
The sharpest fall was at shopping centres where footfall slid 3% year-on-year, according to the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) Springboard figures.
This marks the 12th consecutive month of decline at shopping centres.
On the high-street, shopper numbers fell 0.8%.
Footfall on retail parks slid 0.4% year-on-year – the third consecutive month of decline. But this measurement is up against tough comparatives as this figure jumped 5.2% in January 2016.
Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle warned that the 1.3% total drop “may be a sign of tougher things to come in 2017”.
“Not only was it a noticeably larger drop than the -0.2% in December, but it was the steepest decline since June 2016, when footfall was impacted in the preceding weeks and in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum.
“The results are consistent with longer term footfall trends, with an underperformance of shopping centres against high streets and retail parks,” she said.
Wehrle also points out that the footfall figures correlate closely with retail sales, as they both show a poorer performance this January than last.
Battling business rates
The UK vacancy rate improved from 9.5% in October to 9.4% in January, which is partly down to the churn of occupancy from retail to hospitality.
However, BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said that, in some parts of the country, the number of empty shops remains ”worryingly high and act merely as a blot on landscape of local communities”.
She said: “At a time when retail is being re-imagined as customers seek more engaging experiences in our high streets, town centres and retail park and centres, the incentive for retailers to innovate and invest in physical space is being curtailed by the upward only trajectory of business rates.
“This disincentive needs to be removed and the burden reduced thereby encouraging, rather than deterring, investment to the benefit of those local communities most impacted.”