Like-for-like monthly sales were 2% lower this year
Retailers in Scotland have recorded their worst monthly sales for a decade, according to the latest figures.
The Scottish Retail Consortium KPMG Scottish Retail Sales Monitor figures showed like-for-like sales were 2% lower than the same month last year.
This was the worst figure since March 2000, the authors of the report said.
The general election and the earlier than usual timing of Easter this year were given as the main reasons for the dip.
The figures showed that like-for-like food sales were down 3.1% while non-food sales fell by 0.9%.
Total sales, which include figures for new store openings, were 0.7% higher in April than 12 months ago - the worst total sales growth figure since April 1999, according to the consortium's Richard Dodd.
But Mr Dodd said: "It's nowhere near as bad as it looks. Customers' reluctance to spend in the face of economic and political uncertainty is a factor but the main explanation is the timing of Easter."
Easter fell on the first weekend of April this year, which meant most people did their shopping for it in March.
"Consumer confidence is weak - customers are worried about jobs, the economy and prospects for their own finances but, fundamentally, they are happier to spend than this time last year," Mr Dodd added.
"The Easter effect is only temporary. May's growth is likely to bounce back but emerging news about government tax plans will influence by how much."
The timing of Easter hit food and drink sales but clothing sales also saw their weakest growth since November and sales of electrical goods were also down.
David McCorquodale, head of retail in Scotland for KPMG, explained: "Spending over the Easter weekend is vital to retailers. But in 2010, half the Easter weekend fell in the March trading period and half in April's, whilst in 2009 all of the Easter sales were in April - so the decline in like-for-like sales is exaggerated."
He added: "If the rumours of a rise in VAT are true, this is likely to have an impact as the public looks to buy larger items ahead of the application of any increase.
"Better weather could also have a beneficial effect as summer fashions can finally leave the shelf and be worn with confidence."