Retail sales fell in the year to October, the CBI Monthly Distributive Trades Survey showed, and sales volume was the lowest since May 2009.
The performance was similar to that in August and September, however store chiefs expect “very modest” growth in November.
A quarter (24%) of companies reported sales volumes up year-on-year 36% posted a fall.
The fall in sales volumes was most pronounced in the footwear, hardware and DIY and clothing categories. Volumes were up in grocery and furniture & carpets.
CBI chief economic adviser Ian McCafferty said: “High street sales remain difficult but the decline has stabilised, and retailers expect there to be some very modest growth next month in the build-up to Christmas.
“Family budgets continue to be stretched because of a combination of high inflation, low wage growth and soaring unemployment, so consumer confidence is severely dented.
“High-street retailers are heavily discounting as they aim to provide the best possible value on basics, but consumers will continue on the back foot as real incomes remain squeezed.
“However, price pressures will likely ease next year as the impact of the VAT rise on inflation falls away.”