UK retail sales have been hit by their worst slump since records began with book sales showing their largest year-on-year fall since 2005.
Retail sales fell by 1.9% in March, which is the largest decline since the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG began collating the results in 1995.
Like-for-like sales, based on stores that have been open for less than a year, fell by 3.5% in comparison to March last year.
Book sales showed their largest year-on-year fall since 2005, with fiction particularly affected. However, non-fiction was buoyed by biography and memoir titles.
Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, said the results illustrated the heavy pressure traders and customers are under. He blamed the contrast between rising inflation and consumers' low wage growth for the high street woes.
Robertson said: "This year's later Easter is a factor but this fall goes way beyond anything that can be explained by that alone.
"Uncomfortably high inflation and low wage growth have produced the first year-on-year fall in disposable incomes for 30 years. Mounting fuel and utility costs, falling house prices, higher VAT and the prospect of more tax rises and job losses left people unwilling to spend unless they really had to."
He added that the future outlook for retail sales was not very optimistic. "These pressures aren't going away and the arrival of higher National Insurance is likely to compound them in the immediate future."
Internet, mail-order and phone non-food sales growth also fell further in March, with sales 7.5% higher than a year ago—the smallest increase since the series began in October 2008.
In February, the internet, mail order and phone non-food sales growth was 10.4%.