Growth in sales volumes slowed in February as supermarkets reported the biggest decrease since November 2008, according to the CBI. 

According to the CBI quarterly Distributive Trades Survey 37% of retailers said that year-on-year there was an increase in their sales volumes, while 29% said reported a reduction.

The resulting +8% balance is the lowest since September 2012 when the balance was +6%. It is the third month in a row in which the pace of growth had slowed.

Retail sectors reported a broadly positive period, but grocers were one of the few fallers in the survey with a balance of -26% of retailers reporting their first fall in volumes of sales since April last year. It is the lowest figure since November 2008.

A +91% balance of clothing retailers said they had a “more positive return” while a +61% balance of furniture and carpets retailers and a +70% balance of non-store goods, which includes online and mail-order – also traded well.

Asda chief merchandising officer for food Barry Williams has been appointed chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Survey Panel, replacing Asda chief operating officer Judith McKenna.

Williams said: “We all know trading is tough, and the bad weather hasn’t exactly been encouraging shoppers to hit the high street lately. But there is a glimmer of hope for retailers with the news that sales are growing, even if at a slower pace than in recent months.

“Clearly, the road to recovery remains fragile. Worries about the economy, pay freezes and the rising cost of living will mean shoppers remain cautious for the foreseeable future.”

For March, retailers forecast “little change” in trading. Sentiment about the general business situation over the next three months remains positive, with a balance of retailers improved to +12% against +7% on the previous quarter.