With high street sales continuing to stagnate, retail industry leaders have said they are downbeat about the prospects for the next twelve months.
According to a survey of over 180 senior executives at Barclays fifth annual Retail Industry Forum, 50 per cent of retailers feel pessimistic or very pessimistic about the outlook for the sector for the next 12 months.
Only 13 per cent had a positive outlook, with the remainder being neutral.
The announcement came as the British Retail Consortium announced that UK retail sales fell 0.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis in September, compared to the same month last year.
This means that like-forlike growth has been in negative territory for seven out of nine months this year.
The housing slowdown and weaker consumer confidence continue to hit big-ticket furniture, electricals and DIY, with many retailers resorting to discounts and promotions to drive sales.
Clothing and footwear showed larger declines than in July and August, despite a late boost from autumn/winter ranges when the weather cooled.
Food sales were little changed from August but benefited from the more autumnal weather end-month boosting 'winter' foods such as soups, roasting meats, porridge and bakery.
Director general of the BRC Kevin Hawkins said it was too soon to say if the outlook was positive.
"Next month's figures will give us a better read on what is happening on the high street, but from now on the comparatives get softer in the months leading up to Christmas."