Retail footfall has fallen more sharply in the South West than anywhere else in the country, according to a shock report from the British Retail Consortium.
Figures released today suggest the national footfall average was 2.4 percent lower than in the same month last year, and one percent lower than the July to September average.
But the news was worst for the south west, with footfall down an average 5.5 percent year-on-year.
Meanwhile, shop vacancies are running at an average of 12.6 percent in the region - one of the highest rates in the country.
Nationally, British high streets were 2.7 percent quieter, according to the Springboard report.
After five months of positive growth, out of town shopping centres reported a drop of 1.3 percent, while at in-town shopping centres footfall was down by 2.9 percent – the twelfth consecutive month to report a decline.
Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium director general, said: “Negative numbers across the UK are clearly a concern this close to Christmas, but there are a few factors at play.
“We’re comparing against a very strong September in 2012, when the post-Olympic period coupled with a cold snap unleashed pent-up demand for shopping trips to stock up on warmer clothing and back-to-school items.
“In contrast, this year’s milder September has slowed the uptake of Autumn ranges, a trend reflected in our sales figures last week.
“The sense of tentative optimism is continuing to take hold in the wider economy, but many of us remain cautious and keen to manage our budgets in the run-up to the festive season.
“Retailers will continue to monitor the mood and respond to customer demand accordingly as they prepare for the all-important countdown to Christmas.”
Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, said: “Unlike previous months this year, the 2.4 percent overall decline in footfall recorded in September was a consequence of a drop in customer activity in all three retail environments.
“Out-of-town was the best performing location type in terms of footfall, which is unsurprising given the fact that the positive sales recorded for September were driven by electrical and leisure goods, and that in-store clothing and footwear sales – the backbone of high street and shopping centre locations – declined over the year.
“The drop in footfall this September was greater than in September 2012 in all three location types, but the greatest fall has occurred in shopping centres - moving from an increase of 1.8 percent in 2012 to a decrease of 2.9 percent this year – which clearly highlights the challenges that malls are currently facing in retaining customer numbers.
“Footfall generally declines over the month from August to September in high streets and shopping centres, as spending tails off with the end of the holiday and back to school periods.
“However, this year the five per cent drop in footfall in high streets and 2.1 per cent drop in footfall in shopping centres from August to September was more significant than in previous years, particularly for high streets, which has inevitably adversely impacted the rate of change over the year.”