February's prolonged rain washed shoppers away from high streets and into the more protected environment afforded by out-of-town shopping locations.
The latest figures from the BRC/Springboard Footfall Monitor show that high streets suffered a 5.3% slump in the number of shoppers during the month, the largest drop since March 2013.
Footfall in shopping centres also fell, by 2.4%, but out-of-town locations saw numbers up by 2.3%.
Overall, February's footfall was 2.9% lower than a year ago, and down on the 1.6% rise in January - which, according to British Retail Consortium director general Helen Dickinson, was generated by widespread promotional activity.
"After the increase in UK shoppers we saw [in January], we've seen a disappointing, but understandable, drop back in February," she said.
"Our data is now building up a rich picture of how 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."
Meanwhile, Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, pointed to the damage inflicted by February's bad weather.
"With a drop in footfall of 2.9%, it's clear that the exceptionally rainy weather in February impacted on our retail destinations, particularly as the fall of 5.3% in high streets - which are the most exposed to the elements - exceeded the 2.4% fall in shopping centres that benefit from a sheltered environment.
"The convenience of out-of-town locations - with parking that's easily accessible to the shops - meant that footfall increased by 2.3%."
She said it was the worst result for high streets since the 7% drop recorded in March 2013.
Ms Dickinson added: "The high street has seen the most challenging conditions. This underlines how important it is we keep our focus on reform of business rates to keep costs down. 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."