According to the British Retail Consortium, footfall in September was 0.9 per cent down on a year ago, a return to the decline in footfall seen before the 0.1 per cent rise in August.
On a three-month basis, footfall declined 0.4 per cent.
High street footfall fell after two months of growth, down 0.5 per cent in September, after of the 1.1 per cent rise in August. This is below the 3-month average of 0.2 per cent and is the fifth month high street footfall has fallen this year.
In garden centres, Coolings managing director Gary Carvosso said: "It was the best September we've ever had. The sunshine records were down but it was warm. It surprised me. You’d expect dry and sunny conditions to hit autumn bedding but people have been out buying."
Planner and garden centre owner Malcolm Scott said: "September was good because we had an Indian summer. Most people put on 10-15 per cent."
Alton Garden Centre director Andy Bunker said: "We were 14 per cent up in July, eight per cent in August and 12 per cent in September in the planteria, which are the best ever figures."
He said October had been going well and was an important month because it has good potential growth. Scotsdale's John Ashley added: "We've had very good sales, all considerably up on the previous year at all our centres. Christmas is coming out in full force and people are shopping for Christmas already."
On a total basis, sales rose 1.3 per cent in September, against a 3.9 per cent increase in September 2015, which had been the best month of 2015, according to British Retail Consortium (BRC)/KPMG figures.
BRC said: "Given the warm weather, there was sustained demand for outdoor living and gardening items in September."
Hayloft Plants owner Derek Jarman said demand remained high in the autumn, partly thanks to good weather, and that he would be able to mitigate exchange rates by bringing in some price rises, which supermarkets were unable to do as easily.
This was the fourth warmest September in the Central England temperature series going back to 1659. The mean temperature was 16.1C, 2.3C above the 1981-2010 average. The largest positive anomalies were over East Anglia and Kent, while the smallest were in western coastal areas.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "Total footfall was fractionally down this month with almost one per cent fewer people heading out to shopping locations across the UK. While in itself this isn’t the news retailers would hope for, taken with other retail industry data published this month it tells a fascinating story. At the same time as both footfall and shop prices have fallen year-on-year, retail spending grew in September by 1.3 per cent. This is a function of the changing face of retail and the hard work and innovation of British retail businesses who are responding brilliantly to technological advances and changing consumer habits."
Springboard marketing director Diane Wehrle said: "The headline result for the UK shows a slight worsening of footfall in September from August, but does not reveal the underlying trend that shopping centres are losing shopper numbers at a faster rate than high streets. Whilst the very warm and sunny weather will have drawn consumers to high streets in September, resulting in a greater drop in shopping centre footfall of 2.5 per cent, this is not just a one off result as shopping centre footfall has dropped by 1.8 per cent for the year to date compared with -1.4 per cent in high streets and a rise of 1.2 per cent in retail parks. The issue for shopping centres could be that many have lacked the investment required to maintain their appeal for shoppers whose standards and expectations have risen.
"The other trend is the rate of increase in footfall in retail parks is diminishing, with a decline in three months of this year and a lower average increase for the year to date of 1.2 per cent compared with 2.2 per cent last year. Changes in their offer including family friendly restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, and cinemas heightened the attractiveness of these locations to shoppers and led to an uplift in footfall. Inevitably this rate of increase slows.
"Moving forward into what should be the most lucrative trading period of the year, despite the challenges of a weaker pound and living wage costs, it is critical that staffing remains strong to deliver the level of customer service required to ensure retail destinations offer a quality customer experience."