Figures point to 'quietest Easter this decade'.
Figures from the Retail Traffic Index (RTI) by analysts SPSL show a 9.2% drop in footfall for the entire holiday fortnight against the Easter break last year, worse even than the fall of 5.2% by the forecasters.
Even against the same calendar weeks of 2007, the boost from Easter was disappointing; shopper numbers were up by only 4.7%.
SPSL's retail psychologist, Dr Tim Denison said: "All the cards in the pack have fallen against retail this Easter, making it the quietest one this decade."
He continued: "The combination of poor weather, a very early Easter and shortened school breaks over the traditional holiday fortnight – on top of the growing underlying financial pressures on the consumer – put paid to any hope of buoyant Easter trading this year.
"Taking the two weeks as a whole, it was even quieter than we had predicted."
The index indicated there were occasional days of lift, such as Good Friday, where shopper numbers were 4.1% higher than last year, but shopper numbers visiting diy and garden centres were down by 12.7% against Good Friday last year.
Mr Denison is more upbeat about trade over the next few weeks, however he warns some retailers may opt for short-term price cutting to stimulate trade.
"Some have already chosen to go down that route, while others have elected to run clearance campaigns to offload seasonal stock," he said. "I have little doubt that this will be the busiest period for many a year for retail marketers and merchandisers, as they respond to increasing head office pressures to build turnover."