BOSTON (AP) — The head of a group representing Massachusetts retailers says a survey of small businesses has confirmed the “worst fears” about the effect on sales by winter storms that dumped more than eight feet of snow in many parts of the state.

The survey of 1,600 employers around Massachusetts showed an average drop of 24 percent in sales and 7 percent in payroll during the period of Jan. 26 to Feb. 22, compared with the same period a year ago.

When narrowed just to retail stores and restaurants that responded, the loss of sales soared to nearly 50 percent from a year ago.

Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst says the storms clearly had a devastating effect on small businesses. His group and several others conducted the survey.

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