August is set to be a “weak” month for retail sales, according to figures compiled by the CBI.

Retail sales fell for the third consecutive month in the year to July, with little respite forecast by retailers for August, according to the CBI’s Distributive Trades Survey.

32 per cent of retailer respondents said that year-on-year sales volumes increased during the year to July, while 47 per cent said that they were down. The resulting balance of -15 per cent was better than forecasts of -21 per cent. A balance of -23 per cent is predicted for August.

However, the most recent fall in sales was similar to the more moderate rates in May and June and not as severe as the heavy falls between July 2008 and March 2009, said the CBI.

Sales were poor for the time of year, according to a balance of 32 per cent of retailers. The figure is worse than expected and the drop heavier than in June, when the balance was -15 per cent. 27 per cent of retailers forecast that sales would be below seasonal norms in August.

The three month moving average of sales volumes was negative at a balance of -16 per cent and is expected to drop further in August to -21 per cent.

The grocery sector reported strong growth versus a year ago. The only other sector to report growth was footwear and leather, at a balance of 64 per cent – its strongest result since August 2007. Sales at hardware, china and DIY and furniture and carpets retailers dropped.

Stocks remain adequate in relation to expected demand, according to the survey, but the volume of stocks is below its long-run average for the third month in a row.

The volume of orders placed fell, with a balance of 13 per cent of retailer reporting a fall in July and a balance of 17 per cent expecting a decline in August.

Chairman of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel and Asda chief operating officer Andy Clarke said: “Many retailers are having a difficult summer and no pick-up is expected in August. But the overall sales falls are not as heavy as we saw at the start of the year, and some retail sectors are reporting growth. The recent sharp rise in unemployment will worry many consumers, and is likely to constrain sales growth in the months ahead.”