Sales have fallen for the majority of retailers on the high street, with no respite in sight for October.

21 per cent of retailers said that the volume of sales in the first half of September was up on last year and 48 per cent said they were down, according to the CBI’s Distributive Trades Survey.

The resulting balance of -27 per cent represents the third consecutive month of falling sales. However, it is better than retailers had feared and is an improvement on the record low recorded for August, when the balance was -46 per cent.

The supermarkets outperformed all other retail sectors during the period. A balance of 37 per cent reported sales growth. All other retail sectors reported that sales fell year on year, especially those linked to the stalling housing market.

The trend shows no signs of reversing either, with a balance of -30 per cent of retailers forecasting that the outlook for October remained very weak.

Over a three month moving average, sales volumes continued their downward momentum to a balance of -36 per cent.

Andy Clarke, chairman of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel and Asda retail director said: “Shoppers are increasingly focusing on price as the economy continues to slow and household budgets get tighter. There has been a marked migration to the value end of the market and many have cut back on luxuries, although the drop in petrol prices should give a bit more breathing space.

“Retailers of big-ticket items like furniture and white goods, who are closely tied to the ailing housing market, continue to suffer. Supermarkets have fared much better in these difficult times, particularly those that have realigned their range to match the price-conscious.”