Shoppers were deterred from the high street last month because of rain and chaos surrounding fuel buying.
Total UK footfall dropped by 16.8 per cent in September, compared to pre-pandemic levels, BRC-Sensormatic IQ data found.
Out of all regions, London saw the biggest drop of 26.3 per cent, compared to 2019. The city has suffered from a lack of its usual levels of international tourism and business travel.
Footfall on high streets declined by 22.6 per cent last month, 2.2 percentage points above last month’s rate and above the three-month average decline of 26.9 per cent.
“While footfall at the start of September was strong, it slowed over the course of the month as increasing rainfall and ongoing fuel and supply issues convinced some consumers to stay home,” Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief-Executive of British Retail Consortium, said.
Fears of fuel shortages prompted consumers to limit shopping journeys to essential trips in the latter part of the month, the BRC said.
Dickinson added: “The final week of September saw the worst total footfall levels since the last week of July this year, shortly after the last Covid restrictions were lifted, demonstrating the fragility of consumer confidence and how the economic recovery from Covid can be so easily undermined.”
Brits panic buying petrol boosted spending to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Work-related spending – which includes petrol – was 158 per cent above the tally recorded in February last year, rising 40 percentage points in the last week alone.
The BRC said it was “imperative” for ministers to intervene to resolve the driver shortage, which was causing issues for retailers in the lead up to Christmas.
However, Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions was upbeat about the UK’s bricks-and-mortar recovery. “The UK’s footfall recovery is far from tanking when we look across to our European counterparts – while shopper traffic in the UK is down 17 per cent on pre-pandemic levels, the likes of France and Germany are still seeing footfall down by over a third,” he said.