Two thirds of retailers do not expect trading conditions to improve before the end of this year.

In a survey of 29 of the biggest retailers, more than a third did not expect the market to start bouncing back until the end of next year at the earliest.

Among those to participate in PR agency Kreab Gavin Anderson’s survey were Marks & Spencer’s executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose, Arcadia owner Sir Philip Green, Kingfisher chief executive Ian Cheshire and Next boss Simon Wolfson.

Tesco’s chief executive of retail services Andy Higginson believes it will take a couple of years before the economy picks up. He said consumers in jobs were “better off” but they are “sitting on their hands” because they are uncertain about their future.

The majority (62 per cent) of respondents said they will or may make job cuts. Nearly 80 per cent expect store closures and takeovers.

The report also found 93 per cent of retailers deemed the VAT cut, implemented before Christmas, unhelpful. Some described it as “fundamentally stupid” and “a waste of time”.

Nearly two thirds said the Government should not be doing anything to persuade consumers to spend or save, but should focus on getting the macro-economy in order.

According to 83 per cent of the retailers asked, interest cuts are helpful as they boost trading. However, some were against further cuts.

Rose said: “There is no point in them coming down further. The biggest single thing is the availability of money.”