UK retail footfall fell to its lowest level in nearly a year after heavy snow caused fewer people to go shopping, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Footfall declined 4.6% in January, compared to January 2012, as snow dampened shopper numbers during the second half of the month. This is the weakest footfall figure since April 2012 when shopper numbers declined 6.9%.

Out-of-town locations were the most affected as the number of shoppers were down 7.2% year-on-year, the BRC/Springboard Retail Footfall and Vacancies Monitor found. Shopping centres and high streets saw footfall drop 5.2% and 3.3% respectively.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: "This steep drop in footfall is obviously a cause for concern but, as our sales figures showed last week, fewer shoppers on the streets doesn't seem to have dented sales growth in January.

"The mid-month snow took its toll on numbers of people out braving the elements, especially when making journeys to out-of-town retail parks, but it seems that many of us stayed one step ahead of the big chill and bought more on fewer shopping trips."

The national town centre vacancy rate was 10.9% in January, down from 11.3% in October 2012.

Springboard research director Diane Wehrle said: "Despite an encouraging start following a strong period of Boxing Day sales, the decline in footfall on the high street of -3.3% in January is the largest since 2010 with the severe weather undoubtedly deterring customers from venturing out to shop during a period when they were already stretched from Christmas."

The greater decline in retail parks was most likely due to shoppers reluctance to drive in the bad weather, she stressed. 

"What is unusual - particularly in the winter - is that the high street fared better than shopping centres which recorded a decline in footfall of -5.2%. One possible reason for this is the greater diversity of high streets which provide a wide ranging offer and a greater representation of independents," Wehrle added.