The scale of the UK's retail downturn has highlighted after sales figures for July failed to beat last year's weather-hit performance.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG said retail sales values were down 0.9% on a like-for-like basis compared with the previous July, meaning sales have now fallen in four of the past five months.
BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said: "Frivolous shopping is off the agenda as most customers concentrate on value and durability and there are few signs the slowdown has yet bottomed out."
Trading in July last year was hit by torrential downpours, making it one of the worst performing months of 2007.
That helped comparisons for the food and drink sector this year, but clothing and footwear still fell further below the year-earlier level. Furniture and homewares remained well down on a year ago, despite continued discounts and promotions.
Sales have now fallen in the furniture and floorcoverings sector for six months in a row, with forward orders also down amid the weaker property market and the squeeze on household incomes.
The BRC said the conditions meant it was a good time for shoppers to take advantage of price promotions, but with consumer confidence at record lows even this was no longer guaranteed for retailers.
The BRC added: "With increasing demands on household budgets, shoppers are very price conscious and reluctant to spend on big-ticket items. Even heavy discounting often failed to tempt customers to buy."
The less volatile three-monthly measure of like-for-like sales growth showed a 0.3% rise on a like-for-like basis against a year ago, with the performance helped by a weather-related sales boost in May. The July retail monitor covers the four weeks to August 2.
IGD, which provides the BRC with data on the food and grocery sector, said economic conditions were starting to affect shopper behaviour.
Joanne Denney-Finch, IGD chief executive, said: "Some are shopping more locally, for example, or buying in season. Some are returning to frozen foods. Others are changing their usual brand or outlet.
"We are seeing premium brands strengthen as well as the value end of the market as people sharpen their shopping skills, seeking out the best prices and promotions available to suit their individual needs."