Around 40% of retailers expect employee numbers to fall over the next three months, new research has revealed.
The survey by Retail Ireland found more than half of traders were struggling in the current business climate, with one in three predicting a further drop in sales between now and June.
Around 21% of respondents said they expected to implement voluntary redundancies, while 14% warned of compulsory lay-offs in the next twelve weeks.
Torlach Denihan, director of Retail Ireland, said the findings reflected how tough the current climate was for shop owners.
"The survey highlights the difficult trading conditions facing retailers due to weak consumer demand, high rents and an uncompetitive cost base.Despite deep price cuts by retailers, the sales outlook is still poor," he said.
Mr Denihan called on commercial landlords to reverse rent hikes in keeping with price reductions on the high street, housing and day-to-day bills. "Decisive action is now needed from landlords to help sustain employment in the sector," he said.
"They secured massive and unsustainable rent increases over the last few years under upward-only rent review clauses. In the interest of national economic competitiveness every landlord should, at a minimum, reverse on a voluntary basis rent increases implemented under the last rent review.
"We call on Government to endorse this request and to write to all major landlords urging this course of action."
The survey of 131 retailers covered the first three quarter of 2010. It found 54% of respondents rated the current business climate as poor or very poor, while 48% described their prospects in the second quarter as poor or very poor.
There were some positive findings, however, with one quarter of those surveyed expecting to see a growth in customers over the next three months.