Retail sales were hit by the unusually cold weather in March, the introduction of the local property tax and industrial relations uncertainty.

New figures from Retail Excellence Ireland for the first quarter of the year show that the year started well but then got progressively worse.

The group's Irish Retail Industry Sales Review for the first quarter of 2013 shows that the worse performing sectors of the industry were garden centres - where sales fell by 25%, photo (down 14%) and footwear, which slowed by over 5%.

The best performing sectors included home appliances, which grew by 18%, IT and computing - up 6.2% - and hot beverages, which rose by 4.6%.

REI noted that the March Easter bank holiday weekend, which was in April last year, positively impacted on gift and homeware sales, while it had the opposite effect on furniture and flooring.

''The first quarter of 2013 proved to be a period of mixed fortunes,'' commented Retail Excellence Ireland's chief executive David Fitzsimons.

''The quarter commenced with a robust January, a weaker February and a very poor March. Inclement weather, constant commentary regarding property tax and bank holiday weekends undermined trading performance in March for most sectors,'' he added.

He said that the outlook is ''somewhat bleak'' given the introduction of the property tax later this year and what it likely to be a turbulent period for industrial labour relations.