Independent retailers suffered weak trading in March and during Easter, according to the British Shops and Stores Association's (BSSA) quarterly Sales Monitor published today.
The overall average performance of independent retailers during the quarter ended March was down 0.2%, but this was balanced out by a strong January and February the BSSA survey found.
Some 55% of retailers polled reported a worse performance compared to the same quarter last year, with an average sales decrease of 11.4%. Some 45% of those polled reported a better performance with an average sales increase of 13.4%.
The best performing sectors include department stores, up by 5.5%, but clothing and footwear fell 2.5%.
The BSSA warned that the ongoing rise in energy prices and deflation would continue to put pressure on independent retailers and called for a "bolder reduction" in interest rates to boost consumer confidence and spending.
BSSA chief executive John Dean said: "The quarter is scattered with a plethora of gift giving opportunities, with Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Easter, but it would appear that the credit crunch and increasing demands on household budgets has made people more conservative with their gift giving, and the earliness of Easter is sure to have had an additional impact, following on so quickly from other gift giving occasions. The fragmented school holidays will also not have helped the situation, nor the unseasonably cold weather which will have discouraged people from purchasing spring and summer items."
Figures for the whole financial year showed that average performance was up 1.4% against the previous year.
The BSSA has 4,000 members.
Click the attached word document for more information about the survey including date about the best and worst performing regions.