Total in-store like-for-like sales were down 1.7% compared with last year, when the figures rose 1.3%. It is also the ninth consecutive month that sales growth figures have failed to exceed 1%.
Lifestyle sales fell by a marginal 0.3%, while fashion and homeware saw sharper declines of 2.3% and 2.4% respectively. Internet and mail order was the only category to see an increase, reporting a 10.9% uplift.
Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “The bleak and crippling start to the year shows no sign of abating, with deep discounting set to eat into margins that are already being stretched paper-thin by poor sales and rising costs, including the much-discussed issue of unfair business rates on high street retailers.
“These numbers confirm what many retailers have already suspected – this has been the worst first half of a calendar year for more than a decade.”
She added: “People have simply reined in their spending, online and in store, and extreme weather of snow in March and heatwaves in June has only exacerbated this trend. It will take a monumental change in fortunes on the high street to turn 2018 into anything other than an annus horribilis.”