Last week Andy Bond warned that the recession hadn’t yet hit home for retailers.

Speaking at the Retail London conference, the former Asda boss said “an extended period of constrained consumption” was looming, resulting in a “long, long-term trend of trading down”.

Bond, you’ll remember, was among a host of retail bosses that signed a letter to George Osborne urging him to wield the axe ruthlessly – arguing that the private sector would provide jobs for the tens of thousands laid off as a result.

Not any more. “I don't think the private sector is going to be able to pick up the slack in this climate,” he said. A forerunner at Asda, Archie Norman, also said the government’s growth targets were too optimistic.

And this morning we saw exactly why, as the BRC – rarely a source of sweetness and light at the best of times – issued its bleakest assessment to date of the retail landscape.

With Stephen Robertson again chief prophet of doom, the body said March was the worst month for UK retailers "since records began". If that radio-friendly phrase made it sound like the body was talking about average rainfall, the numbers themselves tell the story well enough.

It’s certainly an interesting time for Bond’s former mucker Darren Blackhurst – today unveiled as the next boss of Matalan – to be getting back into the fray.

Prognostications of disaster run the risk of becoming self-fulfilling but this time it’s not so much confidence in short supply among consumers as cash. Now the Cassandras are in the majority.

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