By Max Clarke

The nation’s retail sector continues to face difficulty, dropping a further 1.9% over the course of the year since March 2010.

A joint British Retail Consortium (BRC)/ KPMG report show like-for-like retail figures were 3.5% higher last year, having risen 6.6% over the preceding year.

The report, published this morning, comes after Ernst & Young reported the number of businesses issued with low profit warnings is at its highest level in over 2 years.

"This is the worst drop in total sales since we first collected these figures in 1995,” commented BRC Director General Stephen Robinson. “Non-food retailers were particularly hard-hit. This is strong evidence of the pressure customers and traders are under. This year's later Easter is a factor but this fall goes way beyond anything that can be explained by that alone.

Helen Dickinson, Head of Retail at ‘big four’ business services firm KPMG, discusses the findings of the report in more detail, saying:

"The food sector suffered in the month due to Easter purchasing falling into March last year, thus impacting the overall results. However, beyond this the trend continues in a marked downward direction: non-food continues to struggle, with big-ticket and home-related sectors again being the hardest hit. We have seen an emergence of new, lower spending patterns since the middle of January, which are currently continuing to trend downwards.

Continued Dickinson: “Many retailers will not be able to sustain this ongoing weakness in demand beyond the short term and are hoping for some good news around the extended bank holiday period and a feel-good factor driven by the royal wedding. However, as disposable income continues to fall, without reducing saving or increasing borrowing — which would oppose current trends — this will not be possible."