Retail sales are forecast to fall 0.7% in March, dropping well below the 10-year average of 3.2% amid “bleak” prospects for the sector.

The revised prediction by the Opera Solutions Retail Predictor (OSRP) for Retail Week, which originally predicted 0.1% growth in the month, comes after January’s retail sales were worse than expected.

Sales edged up 0.2% in January, according to the Office for National Statistics.

They are expected to have grown 1.9% in February, according to the OSRP - well below the 10-year average of 3.1%.

The OSRP said sales in January declined due to a fall-off in fuel sales. Weak sales in the food sector as snow covered the UK also pulled retail sales down.

The OSRP added: “These considerable declines in volume sales for essential goods such as food and automotive fuel are signs of weakening consumer purchasing power.

“Indeed, the consistently high inflation along with declining real wage growth, after adjusting for inflation, suggest bleak prospects for the UK’s retail sector.”

Retail sales are expected to return to growth in April, growing 2.2% against the 10-year average growth of 2.8%. In May, sales are expected to grow 1.4%, behind the 10-year average of 3.1% .

Opera graph

Retail sales are forecast to fall 0.7% in March dropping well below the 3.2% 10-year average amid “bleak” prospects for the retail sector.