Retail sales improved slightly last month, according to new figures, but continue to come under huge pressure from the consumer spending squeeze.
Retail sales values were 0.6% lower on a like-for-like basis in June, compared with a year ago, an improvement on the 2.1% like-for-like drop in May, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said.
The BRC added that the underlying conditions on the high street were masked by a minor revival in non-food sales driven by price cuts and clearance events.
The high street is struggling as consumers rein in spending in the face of soaring costs and muted wage growth.
Companies such as TJ Hughes and Jane Norman have entered administration while mother and child retailer Mothercare, entertainment group HMV and chocolatier Thorntons have all announced plans for store closures.
A report from Ernst & Young yesterday said retailers have issued more profit warnings in the first half of 2011 - some 26 - than the whole of the previous year.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: "Given June's spate of shop-closure announcements and weak company results, these figures are not as bad as they could have been, but it shows just how tough times are when total sales growth of 1.5% is regarded as not that bad."
Food sales growth slowed a little further in June, the BRC said, while non-food sales showed a modest improvement.
Clearance sales benefited the homeware sector more than clothing and footwear, which many had already bought during April's record-breaking weather.
Consumer caution continued to hit big-ticket housing-related purchases, the BRC added.
Internet, mail-order and phone sales growth picked up a little in June after two slower months - sales were 11.5% higher than a year ago, compared with 10.4% in May.
Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said a weak retail survey will raise fears that the total economy contracted in the second quarter.
He said: "The likelihood is that consumer spending will be muted for some time to come as household purchasing power remains under severe pressure from high inflation, low wage growth and tighter fiscal policy."