ONS warns of sharp drop in retail sales growth

Retail sales growth has slowed to its lowest rate in nearly four years, according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics.

Sales by volume was up by 0.3 per cent for April compared with March, and 2.7 per cent compared with the same period last year.

For the three months to April, the underlying growth in sales of 3.5 per cent year-on-year was lower than for the past four years, according to retail experts at Barclays.

Paul Clarke, national retail director at Barclays Business Banking, said that the 3.5 per cent growth contrasted with growth of more than 6 per cent at the same time last year.

Food retailers performed strongest, with sales up 4.8 per cent. But non-food growth was only 0.6 per cent in value and 1.7 per cent in volume.

Clothing and footwear sales growth is slowing at 4.4 per cent, compared with a peak of more than 14 per cent a year ago. Growth of department stores and household goods retailers - including furniture, electricals and DIY - is also slowing and was up by 2.4 per cent and three per cent respectively.

Clarke said: 'Clothing and footwear sales volume growth is slowing sharply. June will be critical for retailers as the National Insurance increase hits shoppers' pay packets.'