Retail sales fell again in the year to May after remaining broadly flat in April.

The decline in May was in line with retailers’ expectations, according to the CBI, and other than April was the least negative result in nearly a year.

The Distributive Trades Survey revealed that 31 per cent of retailers said year-on-year sales volumes were up in the first half of May, while 48 per cent said they had fallen.

This gives a resulting balance of -17 per cent, compared with April’s “broadly flat” figure of +3 per cent. Retailers’ expectations for May were -15 per cent.

It is the second best performance since June 2008, when the resulting balance was -9 per cent.

Retailers reported that prices rose in the year to May at the slowest rate for nearly three years.

Only the grocers and footwear and leather retailers reported positive sales growth in May, although for both, sales grew at a slower pace than in April.

The hardware and DIY sector experienced flat sales growth, while sales of big ticket household items, such as durable goods and furniture & carpets, continued to fall.

CBI Distributive Trades Panel chairman, chief operating officer of Asda Andy Clarke said: “Conditions were tough again in May for retailers, proving April’s better sales figure was a temporary blip. Trading conditions are expected to remain difficult in June.

“Sectors more dependent on people’s house moves, such as furniture and carpets and durable household goods continued to see falling sales.

“The harsh reality is consumers need good reason to part with their hard-earned cash. Demonstrating you offer value for money as a retailer has never been more important, and marks out the true survivors.”