Britain's high streets suffered the biggest drop in shopper numbers for nearly a year last month amid ongoing exceptional wet weather and as consumers reined in spending after the January sales.
Retail footfall slumped by 5.3% across high streets in February - the worst result since March 2013 - while it fell 2.9% across the entire sector in a sharp reversal of the 1.6% hike reported in January due to the clearance sales, according to t he British Retail Consortium (BRC).
The BRC/Springboard footfall monitor showed the weather played a large part in the drop-off, with figures showing a better performance from sheltered shopping centres and out-of-town sites with easily accessible parking.
Footfall in out-of-town locations rose 2.3%, while shopping centres fell by 2.4%.
Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, said: ''It is clear that the exceptionally rainy weather in February impacted on our retail destinations."
A year earlier, high streets enjoyed a 2.7% increase in footfall.
The worst overall performance across all retail destinations was recorded in Wales, where footfall fell 8.8%, followed by Northern Ireland and the South East with a 5.1% drop each.
The West Midlands saw a 4.6% decline and Scotland reported a 4.1% drop.
But the BRC said February's "disappointing" result also highlighted the success of the January sales.
Helen Dickinson, director general of the BRC, said: "Retailers created an exceptional and successful promotional period this January, but having taken advantage of those deals, some consumers have taken a little bit of a pause in their shopping in February."
She added the vulnerability of the high street strengthened the case for a reform of business rates to help keep costs down for shops.
"Reform will help high street retailers invest in their offer and attract more people out to the shops, supporting local jobs and benefiting the wider economy," she said.