Retail sales fell sharply in April, as the cold weather and change in the Easter calendar compounded the economic slowdown, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
The CBI said 52% of high street retailers saw sales volumes fall this month compared to last year, while 25% of retailers said volumes were up. This is the weakest balance since November 2005.
Half of retailers (53%) said sales for the time of year were poor while 15% reported them as "good", the weakest balance since November 1992.
But the CBI said these figures were skewed due to Easter falling in April in 2007 and the UK enjoying a mini-heatwave, which helped lift the balance of retailers reporting year-on-year sales growth to its highest for three years. However in 2008, the four day holiday weekend was in March and the weather was wintry, discouraging shoppers from hitting the high street.
The clothing sales balance for the month was -25%, but shoes and leather goods balance was +37%.
Retailers' orders to suppliers fell back to a balance of 28%, its lowest since November 2005, but a balance of 47% of wholesalers reported an increase in sales compared to the same time in 2007, reversing four months of falls.
Ian McCafferty, CBI chief economic adviser, said: "There is no doubt that consumers are tightening their belts as the mood about the economy and its outlook worsens. The trend in recent months has been one of slowing growth and now we've seen a fall in sales volumes, particularly so for goods related to the housing market."