According to the CBI Distributive Trades Survey, around a third of retailers said sales volumes in the first half of the month were higher than a year earlier, while 35% said they were lower. The resulting balance of +1 was marginally better than retailers' expectations (-2), which followed February's figure of -3. However, the three-monthly average has continued to fall, from its peak of +36 in May to +1 this month.
Around 29% of retailers described sales for the time of year as poor, compared to 15% saying they were good.
Looking ahead to next month, retailers across the sector expect activity to remain subdued with volumes expected to be broadly the same as last April.
CBI economic adviser Ian McCafferty said: "This month's survey has borne out retailers' expectations that the strong growth enjoyed in 2007 has come to an end.
The picture now is of subdued activity as consumers tighten their belts amid the general cooling of activity we are seeing across the whole economy."