High Streets face a make-or-break Christmas because shoppers leave stores and flock online.
A report published today reveals the sale of clothing and household items in stores that were put together in the course of the last three months before the crucial festive period.
By contrast, online sales increased, underlining the dramatic shift in store habits in the UK.
With seven weeks to go until Christmas experts warn that the High Street is facing a new fight.
Threat: a report published today reveals the sale of clothing and household items in stores in shopping streets that collapsed in the past three months before the crucial festive period
Shops are struggling not only to entice their customers through their doors, they are also confronted with the prospect that millions of consumers are waiting for price cuts, also on Black Friday later this month.
The British Retail Consortium said that the "most important golden quarter & # 39; – the last three months of the year – disappointingly started in the High Street when customers stayed away.
The most recent data published by the BRC and accountants KPMG show that purchases in the non-food articles store such as clothing and household items fell by 2 percent in the three months to October 31st. At the same time, the sale of non-food items rose 6.7 percent online.
Nick Bubb, an independent retail expert, said: "Christmas will be suppressed, it will be difficult.
& # 39; Black Friday will make more spending, but there will be a discount. & # 39;
The gloomy figures come in a crucial week for the industry.
Marks & Spencer is on the verge of revealing a decline in sales and profits again in the semi-annual results tomorrow, with luxury handbag maker Mulberry wanting to grab a £ 3 million hit from the fallout at House of Fraser.
Fashion chain New Look will reveal today whether a revision of the stores has helped increase sales.
Christmas is a critical period for the High Street and last year sales growth in stores was the weakest for five years.
Difficult trade in the festive season led to the collapse of Toys R Us and caused a series of profit warnings from Debenhams, Carpetright, Mothercare and Moss Bros.
The latest data from Barclaycard showed a decline in retail spending last month, while department stores faced a sales decline of 5.9 percent.
Barclaycard's findings show that apparel spending also includes members, with 2.4 percent decline in the biggest dip since October 2017.
The figures underline the crisis faced by department stores just a few days after Debenhams revealed that it is closing 50 stores, putting 4,000 jobs at risk.
Meanwhile, House of Fraser & # 39; s new owner Sports Direct is fighting with landlords to keep most of its 59 stores open.
Despite the sliding non-food sales, the BRC data show that the turnover in stores in the store has increased by 2.3 percent in the past three months.
Bubb said: & # 39; It is symptomatic of hard times on the High Street, where non-food is the victim because consumers tend to cut back.
& # 39; There is no reason why that will change, with Brexit on the way and a modest housing market. & # 39;
The chancellor is under pressure to give the main street more help after he is criticized because he does not go far enough in his budget.
Philip Hammond promised last month to help smaller retailers by providing £ 900 million in business interest rates.
Paul Martin, head of UK retail at KPMG, said: "The budget emphasized efforts to alleviate part of the pressure on High Street, but did not go far enough to address the concerns of many retailers. .
& # 39; With the potential implications of a hard Brexit added to the mix, retailers now have to combine contingency plans with the busiest time of the year. & # 39;
Will M & S undergo a takeover bid?
M & S recently unveiled TV presenter Holly Willoughby as brand ambassador
Marks & Spencer may fall victim to a takeover bid at a price if it does not speed up his transformation plan, warned one of the leading investors in the city.
David Cumming, chief investment officer of shares at insurer Aviva, said the loyal High Street advocate should also consider reducing his dividend payments and using the money to encourage investment to win back customers.
Paying a high dividend is like fighting with one hand behind your back because that limits your options, he said.
In a warning to M & S chairman Archie Norman and chief executive Steve Rowe, Cumming added: "Some shareholders may decide whether or not to defend themselves by investing, they are not worth defending. That would make M & S vulnerable to a low value bid. & # 39;
M & S, which recently unveiled TV presenter Holly Willoughby as brand ambassador, is expected to record a 1.2% decline in clothing and home sales tomorrow in the half-yearly results, while food purchases are expected to drop by 2%.
Profit is expected to drop by 7 percent to £ 203 million.