ONS's latest figures show volume sales for the beginning of the year are now in decline, and volume sales for the three months from December to February were 0.6 per cent lower than the previous three months. Food sales volumes grew marginally, by 0.5 per cent quarter on quarter, but non-food stores experienced a 1.7 per cent decrease.
Year-on-year comparisons for the period showed that volumes had increased by 3.4 per cent across the board. However, this is the lowest quarterly volume growth rate since December 2003.
British Retail Consortium director-general Kevin Hawkins said: 'The figures come as no surprise. Consumer confidence is weak, and concern over a further increase in interest rates and uncertainty about house prices continues to discourage spending. Retailers are relieved that the Chancellor did nothing further weaken consumer confidence, but we need a reduction in interest rates to help rebuild it.'