Retailers took a further battering during March after a weak Easter fornight and fractured school holidays, according to the latest footfall report from SPSL.
Footfall for the month was down by 3.2 per cent year-on-year, however, was up 0.8 per cent on February, despite the worse weather.
"We all knew what was coming, I suspect," said SPSL's retail psychologist, Dr Tim Denson. "All the tell-tale signs were in place – an early Easter; a disrupted school break and nervousness about rising inflation, the general economy and personal wealth circumstances.
"The coup de grace was the blizzards and unsettled weather which simply piled misery upon misery for retailers last month," he added.
"In January and February there were at least people out there in the shops, tracking down the best deals, but even this trend has fallen away in March. The dampers on shopping now seem firmly in place."
"However, every day the pinch on the consumer is reportedly more painful and less easy for them to ignore. This will be working its way through to the retailer, where the priority should probably be more about driving cash efficiencies, making every pound generated through the tills deliver that bit more before leaving the business, than purely conserving cash by aborting investment programmes," added Denison.
"Suppliers and manufacturers can expect even tougher trading conditions to come. April will be an unsettling month all round with Easter behind us now and the summer still a long way off."