Top retailers and economists have condemned puzzling data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which pointed to a 2 per cent rise in the volume of goods sold in the first quarter of the year.

CBRC claims ONS sales data is "overly rosy"ompared with most retailer’s reports – which have shown a serious downturn in sales, hampered by the economic downturn – these figures marked the strongest sales growth for four years.

Experts have warned that this could confuse the Bank of England and influence crucial decisions over interest rates. The sales increases for the quarter came despite the data registering a 0.4 per cent sales drop in March.

The ONS said that “underlying growth in retail sales remains robust”.

Analysts have said that this growth may have been distorted by heavy discounting from many retailers and seasonal trading around Easter.

British Retail Consortium analyst Joscelyne Hynard has called on the ONS to clarify how it collated its figures, saying that it was “disguising” the true state of the high street, which has seen a raft of administrations and profit warnings since the start of this year.

UK retail sales plummet in March

BRC claims ONS sales data is "overly rosy"