Visits to the UK high street dropped dramatically last month as wintry weather deterred shoppers.
Footfall on the high street was down 8.6 per cent in March, according to Springboard.
This marked a far more severe downturn than the three-month average decline of 4.2 per cent.
In the same period last year, footfall was down just 1.7 per cent.
Overall UK footfall was down six per cent in March, and three per cent for the first quarter as a whole.
Even retail parks and shopping centres, which gained visitors over the Easter weekend due to wet weather, experienced declines, down 1.8 per cent and 4.8 per cent respectively.
But Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said that bad weather was not the only factor at play.
“Whilst the prolonged period of bad weather has had an impact on shoppers visiting the high street, we are seeing a longer term trend of reduced footfall which highlights that shoppers face more choice in terms of how, where and when they shop," she said.
"The retail environment is changing and retailers are investing in innovation and technology adaptations in response to this. Policy-makers must also play their part with a vision for a modern business taxation system which reflects this new environment.”
Meanwhile Springboard's insights director Diane Wehrle said that reduced shopper activity this year was "undoubtedly a function of low consumer confidence arising from ongoing economic constraints attached to current price inflation and concern for the future".