Retailers have reported flat sales in March with sales volumes well below the average for this time of the year.
According to the CBI’s latest Distributive Trades Survey sales volumes were weaker than expected following six months of slowing growth.
Of those surveyed 26% reported that sales volumes were up compared to the year before, whereas 26% said they were down, giving a zero balance.
Clothing and footwear & leather retailers saw a big drop in sales, with sales falling -53% for clothing retailers and -32% for footwear and leather stores.
Sales volumes are however expected to pick up in the year to April, with 37% of firms expecting an increase compared with 22% who expect volumes to drop.
Wholesalers saw a strong rise in sales volumes during March with 45% reporting they were up and 23% saying they were down, giving a balance of 22%.
Barry Williams, Asda chief merchandising officer for food, and chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Survey Panel, said: “This month we’ve seen a glimmer of hope for retailers fade away, with the news that six months of sales growth has come to an end. All eyes are now on April when retailers expect sales to return to form.”
He added: “However, pay freezes and the rising cost of living are hitting households hard and, added to a challenging economic picture, there may well be more tough trading conditions ahead.”