NI Regional Development Minister Lord Rooker has delayed the publication of draft planning guidelines which govern retail development.
John Lewis is due to locate at Sprucefield
The new guidelines are expected to clamp down on the spread of out of town shopping developments.
Having been delayed already, it now seems it could be several months before the guidelines are published.
Brian Gray of the Northern Ireland Independent retailers association said the decision was "outrageous".
"Far from being a sensible thing to do, we would view this as a perverse and outrageous decision which is certainly not in the best interests of Northern Ireland," Mr Gray said.
He said the only people who would benefit from the decision would be "the large supermarket groups who want to destroy our town centres".
The government's policy statement on retailing has been expected for some time.
Lord Rooker said he was deferring the publication pending legal action over his decision to grant planning permission for the John Lewis store at Sprucefield, near Lisburn in County Antrim.
Interest groups from Belfast and Lisburn city centres are seeking a judicial review of that decision - which it is known was taken against the advice of senior civil servants.
The minister said the further delay was "the sensible thing to do".
BBC NI business editor James Kerr said: "However, there will be those opposed to his decision on Sprucefield who will feel the minister is trying to avoid embarrassment.
"This is because as on the one hand he'd have to argue the John Lewis decision was correct - while having already published a policy statement curbing just such developments."