Retailer John Lewis said sales fell 1.3 per cent last week, the eighth decline in a row.
John Lewis, seen as a bellwether for the high street, said the year-on-year fall was lower than last week, when sales plunged 8.3 per cent.
The week was important for the retailer, as it was the start of its clearance.
John Lewis said: "It's definitely tough out there, but many of our competitors would love to have our figures and we should be proud of all that has been achieved."
Fashion led the way, the retailer added, with own-brand womenswear, brands and childrenswear all delivering double-digit growth as did haberdashery, continuing its strong run.
The strongest branch performance came from Oxford Street, buoyed by trade in fashions and audio/TV.
Howard Archer of Global Insight said: "We suspect that the reduced year-on-year fall in John Lewis department store sales in the latest trading week may well have been a consequence of increasingly pressurized and price conscious consumers looking to concentrate their purchases when there are genuine bargains available in the clearance sales."
The fall in sales follows gloomy news from another British retail institution, Marks & Spencer. The retailer admitted food sales were down and sacked its food director last week.