Retailers are confident sales will grow next month despite recording flat sales in March and bringing six months of growth to an end, according to the CBI Distributive Trades Survey.

The survey of retailer revealed sales volumes were “well below” average for the time of year and weaker than expected in March. It follows six months of slowing growth.

Grocers recorded no sales growth in the year to March but this was an improvement on February’s decline.

Meanwhile, clothing and footwear retailers saw a strong fall in sales. But this was offset by rising sales in other sectors such as furniture and carpets and online retailers.

The survey of 118 firms, which includes 69 retailers, showed 15% of retailers expect sales volumes and orders to rise next month.

Chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Survey Panel and Asda chief merchandising officer for food Barry Williams said: “This month we’ve seen a glimmer of hope for retailers fade away, with the news that six months of sales growth has come to an end. All eyes are now on April when retailers expect sales to return to form.

“However, pay freezes and the rising cost of living are hitting households hard and, added to a challenging economic picture, there may well be more tough trading conditions ahead.”

Barclays head of retail and wholesale Richard Lowe said trading will “remain challenging”.

“In the short-term retailers, particularly those in the north of the country, will be somewhat concerned about the impact the current cold snap is having on  sales of spring/summer ranges,” he added.