Retail sales picked up in April although store groups said the performance was considered poor for the time of year.

According to the CBI Distributive Trades Survey, 45% of retailers experienced a rise in sales volumes in the first two weeks of April, compared with 24% who said they fell. The resulting 21% balance was ahead of expectations (18%).

However sales in April were considered poor for the time of year. While 12% of retailers reported sales to be good, 35% said they were poor, giving a resulting balance of -23%.

No growth in sales volumes is expected next month, with a balance of -1% anticipating any increase in sales.

The three-month average of sales volume growth worsened for the third month running, with a balance of +14% - the lowest since July last year (+3%).

Grocers and fashion chains reported the strongest growth last month, with balances of +53% and +48% respectively.

CBI chief economic adviser Ian McCafferty said: “Despite slightly better year-on-year sales growth in April, this survey shows things are far from rosy on the high street. For the third month in a row, retailers considered sales to be unseasonably poor, stocks are running quite high, and orders with suppliers are expected to fall.

“With few signs of demand picking up rapidly in the coming months, conditions on the high street look like remaining tough for retailers.”