Footfall took an “unprecedented” hit last in March and April when it fell nearly 5% over the two-month period.
Footfall last month dropped 3.3% because of a combination of poor weather and lower spending from consumers, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard.
Diane Wehrle, of Springboard, said: “Not since the depths of recession in 2009 has footfall over March and April declined to such a degree. Even then the drop was less severe at minus 3.8%.”
Boss of the BRC, Helen Dickinson, said that changing shopping habits and tough trading were making it difficult for British high streets.
She noted that a “highly challenging” business environment and wet weather in April were impacting on retail stores and claimed that in April, nearly one in 10 shops in town centres was vacant.
The new report pointed out that footfall did improve in the latter half of April, but said that people were choosing to spend money elsewhere rather than with retail shops.
Ms Dickinson added: “While these figures highlight the difficulties faced by retailers, they also point to the evolution of the industry. Retailers are embracing changing customer behaviour and adapting to a challenging environment by rebalancing investment in physical and digital infrastructure.”
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said: “Much could be made of the adverse impact on April’s footfall of Easter shifting to March, but even looking at March and April together – so smoothing this out – still demonstrates that footfall has plummeted.
“Given the decline in footfall over the month, negative LFL [like-for-like] retail sales was not unexpected. Indeed, we had an early warning sign of what was likely to come by the end of the second week, as footfall dropped by an enormous -9% over the first half of the month.”