More consumers are using cash to make retail purchases, as the credit crunch forces a scaling back of spending on plastic cards.

According to the BRC, cash is now used for 60 per cent of all transactions, up from 54 per cent last year and cash is used in 34 per cent of retail spending, compared with 32 per cent a year ago.

BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said: “Reports of the death of cash are premature. Cash is not only alive, it's thriving. Hard-up customers are increasingly reluctant to spend money they haven't actually got in their hands.

“While total retail spending continues to grow, there is a widening gap between the amount spent in cash and the amount spent using cards, suggesting customers want to keep tight control of their finances.”