Retail sales were broadly flat in the year to September and are expected to remain unchanged in October, according to new CBI figures indicating that trading conditions on UK high streets are finally beginning to stabilise after months of falling sales.

Thirty-nine per cent of retailers said sales volumes rose in the year to September, compared to 36% who said they fell.

Volumes of orders placed with suppliers fell slightly, although by the slowest rate since February 2008.

Andy Clarke, chairman of the distributive trades panel at the employers’ group, and also chief operating officer of Asda, said: “After such a difficult summer, it is encouraging to see signs that conditions in the retail sector are stabilising. However, with unemployment rising, wage growth low, and consumers building up their savings, spending is likely to remain subdued for some time.”

Grocers and shoe shops maintained solid sales growth year-on-year, but all other sectors reported a fall in sales, he added.

The CBI Distributive Trades Survey covers 20,000 retail outlets and measures sales activity. The survey was conducted between August 27 and September 16.