Footfall in all retail stores dropped 2.4% in September from a year earlier, following August’s 0.9% fall. High street footfall decreased 2.7%, which was notably faster than the 0.6% contraction seen in August.

Footfall in out-of-town locations plunged 1.3%, which followed five months of positive growth.

Footfall at shopping center locations decreased 2.9% annually during the month, marking the twelfth consecutive month to report a decline in footfall.

The agency noted that the drop in activity this year is primarily attributable to a very strong September 2012, when the post-Olympic period combined with a cold snap led to customers making several shopping trips to stock up on warmer clothing and back-to-school items.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said the sense of tentative optimism is continuing to take hold in the wider economy, but many of them remain cautious and keen to manage their 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.

"Negative numbers across the UK are clearly a concern this close to Christmas, but there are a few factors at play," Dickinson added.