The number of empty shops has fallen sharply in recent months, according to the British Retail Consortium. The only thing missing now is shoppers.

Footfall was down 0.2 per cent year-on-year in October, with high streets (-1pc) and shopping centres (-1.3pc) dragging the figures down, the lobby group’s BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor found last month.

The figures did, however, bring a welcome improvement in retail shop vacancy rates, which fell from 9.8 per cent in July to 9.1 per cent last month. That is the lowest figure since the survey began back in 2011.

As per the longtime trend, out of town retail parks—destinations popular with big-ticket furniture stores—saw a rise in year-on-year footfall, though October’s 2.9 per cent uplift was down on the 4 per cent rise in September.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said the improvement in vacancy rates needed to be backed up with business rates reform, otherwise “the new occupants of these premises will, in the not too distant future, find themselves struggling under the weight of ballooning bills; and today’s vacancy figure may become but a distant, happy memory.”