Footfall in April fell 0.1 per cent year-on-year as consumers preferred to shop online and at out-of-town locations.
High streets suffered the sharpest fall at 1.4 per cent while shopping centre footfall fell 0.9 per cent, according to BRC/Springboard.
Two regions in England reported footfall below the UK average – Greater London (-3.4 per cent) and East Midlands (-3.2 per cent.)
Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said: “Hopefully the flat footfall growth witnessed in April will prove short-lived, coming as it does after a favourable expansion the month before.
“As we saw with our retail sales data released last week, purchases of big ticket items such as furniture, gardening, DIY and materials for revamping the home performed well, off the back of a pick-up in the housing market. Out of town retail locations have directly benefited as a result, whilst footfall on our high streets has dipped reflecting weaker sales of clothing, footwear and beauty products.
The national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 10.6 per cent in April 2014, down from January’s rate of 11 per cent as pop-up shops boosted occupancy.
Ahead of official retail sales figures to be released tomorrow (Wednesday), Samuel Tombs, economist at Capital Economics, said he expected to see another “fairly strong” 0.5 per cent increase from last month which equates to a 5.3 per cent rise year-on-year.
His comments were backed up by Mastercard, who attributed the bank holiday weekend and April sunshine to boost UK retail by 5.5 per cent year-on-year in April.
“Although April’s growth compares favourably against a very bleak picture last year, it’s important to note that underlying sales have maintained their robust levels from last month,” commented Sarah Quinlan, Group Head and Senior Vice President at MasterCard Advisors. “We are seeing an increase in discretionary spending as we did in March, which is essential to healthy spending patterns. The outlook for the retail sector in 2014 is very bright as long as we can ensure shoppers keep their confidence and return to the high street in full force.”