SHOPPERS deserted the town centres and retail parks last month as they used the internet to find their "Black Friday" bargains.

Footfall in Scotland last month was 4.2 per cent lower than it was a year ago, making it the worst performance since January 2013.

The figure, published in the monthly Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC)-Springboard Footfall Monitor, was also significantly down on only a 0.6 per cent year-on-year fall in October.

High streets and shopping centres were the worst hit, with discount 'Black Friday' deals given as the main cause as consumers opted to shop online for bargain buys.

The only winners this month were the country's retail parks, which have seen an increase in footfall, attributed to the convenience of services such as free onsite parking.

SRC director David Lonsdale said: "Shopper footfall in Scotland's town centres last month recorded its worst performance in almost three years, as consumers sought to take advantage of online 'Black Friday' promotions and discounts which often ranged across several days.

"As a result November was the seventh month in a row in which shopper footfall in our town centres declined.

"Until the November data for Scottish retail sales is published later this week we won't know what impact this plunge in footfall and surge in online shopping has on the total value of sales.

"Those retailers with a strong multichannel offer - allowing customers to shop in-store, at home and on the move - will have been well placed to capitalise on this further milestone in the development of our digital economy."

The decline comes on the back of a glimmer of hope for high streets last month, after it was reported there was a fall in the number of empty shops.

However this may simply be down to retail units being taken up on a temporary basis in the run-up to the crucial Christmas trading period.

It has been a more positive picture for the country's retail parks, which have seen an average increase of 5.2 per cent in footfall over the past 26 months.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said: "The learning from the UK-wide November footfall result indicates the winners were those destinations that continue to adopt the old school rules of retail - the three C's of convenience, choice and customer service.

"Retail parks have these core principles at the heart of their offer, and as a result footfall has increased annually in Scotland's retail parks in all but one of the past 26 consecutive months.

"Shoppers are increasingly seeking out this traditional retail destination as either an alternative or complement to online as they have an expanding breadth of offer, together with a core edit of retail brands to choose from.

"There is an evident need for urban shopping destinations to see 2016 as an opportunity to focus on cracking the perennial issue of convenient parking options for shoppers, as most retail parks offer this free of charge.

"Such changes as improving easy access to town centres could ensure the decline in footfall observed in November, and throughout the year, is mitigated next year."

The BRC/Springboard Retail Footfall Monitor gathers data on customer activity in town and city centre locations, and in out of town shopping locations, throughout the UK.

The picture was the same across most of the UK, with only two regions reporting footfall growth in November: the East Midlands and Greater London.

Northern Ireland was the worst performing area, reporting a 7.9 per cent fall in footfall from October’s 2.1 per cent rise, its deepest decline since December 2013.