Sales volumes were flat in April, defying growth expectations for the month as Easter trade disappointed and bad weather impacted the performance.

The CBI’s Distributive Trades Survey said sales volumes were “well below” average for the time of year and to a much greater extent than expected.

The balance of retailers surveyed on sales volumes was -1%, the lowest since August 2012.

Order volumes also fell on a year ago, despite growth forecasts.

Chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Survey Panel and Asda chief merchandising officer for food Barry Williams said: “Retailers were frustrated this month by the on-going stagnation in sales growth. This may be explained in part by the unseasonal weather we suffered, but there is no doubt that high street conditions are tricky with consumers lacking the confidence to go out and spend, as they still feel the pinch in their pocket.”

Expectations for May sales growth have been dampened with retailers expecting both sales volumes and orders to fall.

Clothing and footwear sales fell in the month but this was offset by increasing sales across the grocers, furniture and carpets and online retailers. It was the first year-on-year rise in supermarket sales in three months.

Barclays head of retail and wholesale Richard Lowe said: “Today’s figures are disappointing as retailers were upbeat about the outlook when asked last month.

“Money is still extremely tight for consumers and despite the sector’s cautious outlook I expect the improved weather to encourage shoppers to head back to the high street and part with a little of their cash.”