Like-for-like month sales were 1.6% lower, according to a report compiled by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
Taking into account higher inflation and levels of VAT overall sales were up just 0.7% compared to a rise of 2.8% in November 2010.
For both measures the sales performance was at its weakest level since May. The report blamed the recent mild weather, as well as underlying uncertainty about jobs and incomes, for hitting clothing, footwear and homewares.
Stephen Robertson, the director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: "There's a worrying lack of cheer in these figures. The weakest increase in sales for six months suggests consumers are keeping a tight rein on their spending, despite Christmas being so near.
"This November's mild weather contrasted with much lower temperatures last year, hitting sales of winter clothing and footwear particularly hard.
"Consumers are not quite in the Christmas mindset yet, although stores are working to generate much-needed sales with high levels of festive discounting."
It comes after accountants BDO released figures showing year-on-year, like-for-like sales figures at mid-tier retailers were down 1.7% last month despite the recent promotions launched to get consumers spending.
Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, added: "The latest figures prove once more that the health of UK retailing is deteriorating. Christmas is a crucial trading period for the UK retail sector but this year many retailers will be nervous and unsure as to how the season will pan out."
By Andy Pearce