The Summer Sales have bought no respite for beleaguered retailers as they reported plummeting sales volumes in July.

The CBI’s Distributive Trades Survey showed that 61 per cent of respondents reported sales volumes in the first half of July were lower than a year ago. Only 25 per cent reported a volume increase.

The resulting balance of -36 per cent was the weakest since the survey began in 1983 and shattered more conservative expectations of a 7 per cent decline. A balance of -32 per cent is expected next month.

CBI Distributive Trades Panel chairman and Asda retail director Andy Clarke said: “It is turning out to be a very grim summer for many retailers. Pressure from higher fuel and food prices is prompting many people to rein in their spending, proving that value retailing has never been more important.”

He said: “The retail sector will have to focus more than ever on providing good value to customers if they want to keep the sun shining this summer.”

The three-month moving average of sales volumes showed a continued negative trend. A balance of -20 per cent for the period was the weakest since November 2005.

Poor sales volumes were reported by a balance of 46 per cent of retailers, worse than the -17 per cent balance forecast. 37 per cent expect August sales figures to be similarly poor.

As a result of dire sales, the volume of orders placed with suppliers has fallen with a balance of 37 per cent reporting a year-on-year fall in order volumes.

The deterioration expected was -13 per cent. Stock levels were reported to cover demand by a net 20 per cent of companies.

Demand for big-ticket items led the negative trend with every respondent questioned in the sector reporting a year-on-year sales decline. Clothing also suffered.

The grocers, and footwear and leather industries were the only categories that reported growth.