This is according to new figures from the Finance & Leasing Association, the trade body for the consumer credit industry.
In line with the general slowdown in High Street spending, store card sales were down by 21%, store instalment credit was down by 28% and credit card spending, which is often used for smaller purchases, was down by 8% compared with March 2010.
Commenting, Fiona Hoyle, FLA head of consumer finance, said: “Our figures accord with a number of recent surveys showing that consumer confidence in the economy remains low. As a result, consumers are wary about spending and taking on additional financial commitments.
“Real disposable income has been hit by low wage growth; and with the rise in the cost of living, households have had to prioritise their spending even more.
“Despite consumers taking a cautious approach to spending, FLA members lent £4.8bn to customers in March for household essentials, such as furniture, clothes, food, fridges and other electrical items. This shows how important consumer lending is to both the High Street and the UK economy.”