Retail sales were flat in March according to the CBI.

33% of retailers reported that volumes were up year-on-year whilst the same amount reported a drop in volumes according to the Distributive Trades Survey, which covered the first two weeks in March.

Asda chief operating officer, and chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel, Judith McKenna said: “It is encouraging that sales on our high streets are stabilising and, while we are still not seeing growth, conditions have improved since the end of last year.”

However the retailers surveyed said sales were still low for the time of year. Just 7% thought that sales volumes were good for the time of year while 34% of those surveyed said it was poor, giving a negative 27% balance.

In the month ahead, 29% of retailers are expecting a sales uplift, while 33% predicted sales will be down, giving a negative 4% balance.

McKenna said: “The squeeze on people’s pockets continues to bite, despite a recent fall in inflation, with wage growth modest and fuel costs remaining high.”

In grocery, a positive balance of 39% reported a sales increase, down from 58% last month.

Non store retailers posted a negative balance of 15%, pointing to a sales drop in the sector.

Durable household goods and DIY retailers’ sales volumes were hardest hits, with a negative balance of 88% and 44% respectively.