UK retailers have suffered the sharpest drop in sales since 1995 when the survey was first launched.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG found a 3.1 percent drop in sales in April and blamed the decline on bad weather, the timing of Easter and squeeze on household budgets.
“A drop in sales this April… was almost inevitable given the earlier timing of Easter,” said Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive.
“With much of the spending in preparation for the Bank Holiday weekend falling in March this year, a record low in sales growth, in contrast to last year’s record high, does not come as a surprise.”
“However, even once we take account of these seasonal distortions, the underlying trend in sales growth is heading downwards,” she added.
A number of high street retailers including New Look, Carpetright (LON: CPR) and House of Fraser have closed stores and attempted to cut rent on a number of stores in 2018. Maplins and Toys R Us both collapsed in February.
Retailers are hoping spending will increase over the summer months with the Royal Wedding in May and World Cup that will take place in June and July.
“Retailers have got their work cut out to overcome seemingly endless obstacles, whether it be unpredictable weather or the introduction of new regulation, like GDPR [the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation],” said KPMG’s head of retail, Paul Martin.
“The upcoming months will provide a number of opportunities for retailers to drive sales and navigate this assault course, including bank holidays, World Cup and of course the royal wedding, although it is clear that trading will remain challenging,” he added.
Once the figures were adjusted for changes in the amount of shop-floor space over the past year, the survey figures showed a like-for-like basis spending declined by 4.2 percent compared with April 2017.