Volume sales are also down, but retailers still optimistic for March
Retailers have cut jobs at the fastest rate for 12 years, according to a CBI survey. The report said sales for February were further below average for the time of year than any time for six years. Year-on-year sales to February barely grew at all.

Retailers expect employment to improve slightly this month, remaining below the level of a year ago in March, but by less than February.

Retailers that said employment in their stores was down in February reached 33 per cent, offset by 15 per cent of retailers saying employment had increased, resulting in a net decline of 18 per cent.

When asked about volume sales, 14 per cent of retailers said sales were good, against 36 per cent saying volumes were poor. The balance for volume sales was 23 per cent - the lowest since January 1999.

CBI chief economic adviser Ian McCafferty said: 'Weak consumer demand for goods means so far this year, retailers have suffered minimal sales growth and falling prices. The retail environment has been particularly tough for sellers of big ticket items.'