Shopper footfall was down by 0.7% in May, lower than a year ago, and down from the 1% rise in April, according to new figures.

The BRC/Springboard Footfall Monitor revealed a mixed picture across the UK – with footfall down by 1% on high streets, but up 1.2% in out-of-town areas

The hardest-hit parts of the UK were Northern Ireland (-3.1%), the West Midlands (-2.9%) and the East Midlands (-2.6%).

Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium director general, said: “On the surface these figures are fairly flat, but they’re masking widespread regional variations and only two areas in England – Greater London and the East – are showing positive footfall growth compared with May 2012. As the recent unemployment figures highlighted, the outlook in terms of job prospects and economic growth is by no means ‘one size fits all’ across the UK.

“While footfall saw a slight drop compared with May 2012, the month’s respectable sales growth suggests that conversion rates were good: people made fewer trips, but responded well to good deals, especially on value ranges and seasonal promotions. Where there was a little growth, retail parks led the way and this could explain why furniture – most commonly sited out of town – was the month’s best-performing category according to our Retail Sales Monitor.

“Now that we’re into June, retailers will be hoping that summer sales and sunshine will make for a stronger showing next time.”