Retailers’ hopes for continued sales growth were dashed this month after the monthly CBI survey recorded flat sales.

The CBI’s latest Distributive Trades Survey of 125 firms showed sales stalled after three consecutive months of growth.

Some 42% of respondents to the survey reported that sales volumes were up on a year ago, while 39% said they were down, giving an overall balance +2%, well below expectations of +31%.

Grocers were among the worst affected. The food sector recorded its first fall in year-on-year sales volumes in eight months.

Some sectors – such as footwear and leather (+37%) and chemists (+67%) – performed more strongly.

Retailers expect sales volumes to return to growth next month.

Order growth held up in October and are expected to rise modestly again next month. 

Asda chief merchandising officer for food and chair of the CBI Barry Williams said: “Although the high street recovery stalled this month, there is optimism that it was just a blip on the previous run of three months’ growth.

“Retailers expect sales to pick up next month and are upping orders with their suppliers.”

He added: “It’s also encouraging to see that signs are pointing towards increased consumer confidence - backed up by continuing growth in certain areas such as furniture and carpets; recreational goods; footwear and leather - all did particularly well in October.”