The retail sector saw a slump in sales in June -- down 5.5pc from last year.
New figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) also showed month-on-month drops in sales.
With motor trade excluded from the figures, the CSO recorded a decline of 1.5pc from May and an annual drop of 1.7pc.
IBEC retail sector group Retail Ireland said the latest report reflects the difficulties retailers face.
Director Stephen Lynam described the "devastation" felt in the sector and said consumers have been forced to stay out of the shops due to VAT hikes. "Since the Government increased VAT, the downward trend in retail sales has hit with renewed force," said Mr Lynam.
"While the targets for VAT collection may be being met, this is only happening due to higher VAT receipts on utility bills and professional. charges -- items consumers cannot cut back on."
The figures showed food, drink and tobacco were the hardest hit from May to June -- dropping by 9.7pc.
The hardware, paints and glass sector saw a monthly slump of 4.8pc while fuel dropped by 3.9pc.