RETAILERS suffered a fourth month in a row of declining footfall in July, with high streets the hardest hit, new figures showed.
The numbers of shoppers who went to stores across the country last month was 0.6 per cent lower than a year ago, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
This figure is an improvement on the 0.7 per cent decline in June but means that retail footfall has not increased since March, when it rose year-on-year by 1.8 per cent.
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The high street was hit by the biggest fall in July, dropping 1.7 per cent, while shopping centres fell 0.5 per cent.
Out-of-town stores fared better, rising by 1.7 per cent as they were buoyed by the popularity of furniture, home accessories and garden items.
The survey also showed that store town centre vacancies fell to a record 10.1 per cent, the lowest level since the BRC first began collecting this data in July 2011.
The new quarterly low for vacancy rates is a fall from April's 10.6 per cent figure.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: "The reduction in the shop vacancy rate for the third successive quarter is heartening, with the vacancy rate at its lowest level since our records began in July 2011.
"However, it is still the case that every tenth shop remains unoccupied."
Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at researchers Springboard, said the fall in vacancy rates was due to landlords being more flexible on rents and the growth of "pop-up" shops and temporary lets.
But she warned: "The key issue for town centres in the longer term is the extent to which any temporary let is converted into long-term occupation beyond the summer and into the key Christmas trading period."