Poor weather and a rise in prices led UK high street sales to fall to their lowest level in 14 months, according to the Confederation of British Industry's monthly distributive trade survey.
According to the CBI, the monthly sales balance fell to -18 in May, the lowest rate in more than a year. Most analysts were expecting the sales balance to be at least +12 and potentially as high as +17.
Chemists, DIY and durable household goods saw the worst annual fall in sales, while clothing sales were down after a quarter of continuous growth. Sales continued to show little movement, and many retailers expected the situation to get worse in the next three months.
Ian McCafferty, the CBI's Chief Economic Adviser, said: 'These retail sales figures for the early part of May are clearly disappointing, with many sectors failing to achieve higher sales than a year ago'.
'Retail conditions look to remain fragile... it appears that shoppers are feeling the pinch again and are being cautious with their purchases, given the squeeze to real incomes from higher prices and only a modest rise in average pay'.
Richard Dodd, spokesman for the British Retail Consortium, said: 'Customers are feeling more positive than they were feeling a year ago when we were mired in recession, but they are still concerned about jobs, taxes and utility bills'.
'Much of this is linked with not being clear on how the government will address the deficit... it is possible that this uncertainty is proving more damaging than the reality of the government's actions will actually be'.
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