This year's poor weather has taken a toll of sales within independent retailers across a wide diversity of product categories.
Bira's latest Quarterly Sales Monitor for January to March reveals a year-on-year slump in trade across virtually all types of business and in almost all regions. And, says Bira: "The story of the first quarter of 2013 was in the comments left by members as much as in the numbers collected in the survey: 39 of the 72 comments included the word 'weather'."
Comparing their business with the same quarter last year, 61% of respondents reported a lower performance, on average down 14%, while just 33% reported a higher performance, on average up 9%. Overall average performance was down 6%.
Only two product sectors, cards and stationery and department stores recorded growth - up 4% and 6% respectively - while the worst results were returned by those sectors most exposed to the elements: garden machinery was down 14% and clothing and footwear down 9%.
Almost all regions also suffered a quarter of decline. The Midlands were alone in bucking the trend.
Bira members from all areas and in all lines of business were clear about where the blame for a miserable start to 2013 lay. One comment, "Weather grave factor", summed it up. Others included: "Who wants to go into town in -2 deg?"; "Terrible weather has caused huge sales losses"; "The extreme weather has completely ruined the start of the spring selling season"; "Severe weather in March led to drop in sales of 50% for that month".
On a more positive note, Bira says its Anxiety Index dropped below 50% for the first time since Q1 2012, to 46%, while 51% of respondents were "reasonably confident" about the year ahead and 3% "very confident".