Total retail footfall in the three months to the end of October fell 0.4% against last year as the town centre vacancy level in October hit 11.3%, the highest figure in more than a year.

The town centre vacancy rate hit 11.3% in October, the highest figure in more than a year, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium-Springboard monitor.

Total retail footfall in the three months to the end of October fell 0.4%, which although while down it has improved from the 3.3% decline in the previous quarter.

The monitor showed high streets were hit the worst as footfall slumped 0.9% in the quarter from August to October, despite a boost from the Olympics in August which delivered increased footfall.

Both out-of-town and shopping centre sites recorded increased footfall of 0.2% and 0.1% respectively.

The hardest hit locations across the country in the period were the east, where footfall dropped 4.1%, the south-west where footfall fell 4% and Scotland where it dropped 3.9%.

Northern Ireland, the West Midlands and Greater London were the only regions where footfall increased by 14.1%, 4.2% and 1.3% respectively.

Springboard said the decline in footfall could have resulted in the low vacancy rate.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said the new low in empty shops “sets alarm bells ringing”.

He added: “Many retailers are battling stagnating sales and rising costs, and next year’s threatened business rates increase can only make matters worse. If the Government wants to breathe life back into our town centres and ensure the retail industry can play its full role in job creation it needs to freeze rates in 2013.”

Retail Week and the BRC are currently lobbying Government to halt the planned rise in business rates next year in the Fair Rates for Retail Campaign, to ease the burden on retailers who have already suffered two years of onerous rates rises.

Springboard chief executive Steve Booth said: “There is no doubt that October had the most detrimental impact on retail footfall over the past quarter.

“Traditionally October is a difficult month for retailers, as school holidays are over and winter weather sets in, however the year-on-year drop in high street footfall this October was significantly better than the drop a year earlier.

“Though the pace has slowed, the continued decline in footfall could be a factor leading to the 0.4 percentage point increase in vacancy rates. Temporary lets over the festive season may positively affect this figure in November and December and the awareness of increasing vacancy rates has encouraged landlords to become more flexible to try and alleviate this issue, as the heavy rate burden is an ongoing concern for retailers.”