David McCorquodale, head of retail at accountants KPMG, who sponsored today's retail sales survey by the British Retail Consortium said the poor figures show Britain's economic recovery is a "slow, relentless slog".
October was another difficult month for retailers, reminding us that recovery is a slow, relentless slog.
Whilst the summer months hinted at increased consumer confidence, retailers will struggle to maintain a sustained sales recovery until wage growth outpaces price inflation.
The coldest March in 50 years boosted sales for food and drink, while clothing and footwear retailers endured a "dismal" month, The British Retail Consortium (BRC) found.
It is thought the cold weather encouraged an appetite for hearty meals, with food sales up as families enjoyed themselves over Easter.
According to the BRC, sales grew by 1.9% in March on a like-for-like basis, weaker than February's 2.7% surge.
The organisation said: "2013 has got off to an encouraging start for the market as a whole. Retailers are now hoping for a boost in consumer confidence and the general mood to lift performance across all, not just some sectors, as we head into the second quarter."
Marks & Spencer Chief Executive Marc Bolland said the company is making "strong progress" in its bid to become an "international multi-channel retailer", despite reporting a drop in pre-tax profit during the first half of the year.
Instead, Mr Bolland highlighted the firm's performance in the second quarter, which was better than the previous quarter.
We took steps to address the short term merchandising issues in General Merchandise and as a result, we delivered an improved performance.
Eighteen months in, we are making strong progress with our plan to transform M&S into an International Multi-channel retailer.
Our new International stores are performing well, and our Multi-channel business is delivering strong growth.
Clothing and footwear sales saw double-digit like-for-like growth in the first week of the month as customers bought autumn and winter collections, but faded as they were too nervous to fill their wardrobes with them.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said October sales figures had been like a "disappointing firework - full of promise, but eventually fizzing out with a whimper" and said winning a share of the Christmas wallet over the next two months would be just as competitive as last year.