Retail sales fell 0.2% in April, 2.3% on a like-for-like basis, with sales for the month impacted by an early Easter.

According to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, some consumers held back on non-essential spending due to pre-election uncertainty with clothing and footwear sales slowing and homewares sales down despite wider discounting and promotions.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “April’s sales were down on a year ago, but that’s because of the Easter effect. This April’s trading period only included the last two days of Easter, while last year’s had the entire build-up and holiday weekend.

“Both food and non-food sales growth slipped back this April because people had already done their Easter spending in the previous month. The three-month average irons out the Easter distortions. It shows total sales up 3.8 per cent this year compared with 2.2 per cent in the same three months in 2009.”

He added: “There’s no question customers are more willing to spend than 12 months ago but still nervous. People need to know how a new government’s moves to tackle the deficit will affect their incomes and jobs. Even if the measures are tough, knowing what they are could be better than the current uncertainty.”

Mail order and internet sales were ahead 15.9% on last year but retailers needed more promotions to secure sales.

Shore Capital retail analyst Kate Calvert said: “From a sector perspective, we expect the sector to struggle to perform until we have a clearer view on how the next government will reduce the deficit and the strength of underlying consumer demand becomes clearer.”