Retailers are less optimistic about their prospects for the year ahead than at any time this year, according to a new survey by the Association of Convenience Stores.

The ‘Voice of Local Shops’ survey, which tracked local shop owners throughout 2012, found that when asked about their business in November, less than a third expected their sales to grow in 2013, and a quarter expected their sales to fall in 2013.

When retailers were asked the same question in May, only 13% believed their sales would decline in the coming year.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “While events like the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee may have boosted retailers’ optimism in the summer, they are now facing up to a tough 2013.

“Our research also shows that the autumn was a tough trading period for local shops with half of retailers reporting a decline in sales over this period.  This is the most pessimistic result since the survey started this February. While most retailers are cashing in on festive cheer, convenience stores are looking for ways to stay afloat.”

Throughout the year, competition from supermarkets and rival stores, the wider economic crisis and business rate increases have been the most pressing concerns for local shops identified in the survey.

On business rates, Lowman commented: “The Chancellor had an opportunity to give local shops and other businesses an early Christmas present in his Autumn Statement by stopping unpredictable rates increases, but he failed to do so.”