The volume of retail sales fell 0.4 per cent in March – the biggest decrease since January 2007, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The drop in sales compared with February was slightly bigger than the 0.3 per cent decline that was forecast. ONS said that March’s decline was the largest since January 2007, when retail sales fell 1.7 per cent.

However, retail sales rose 4.4 per cent year on year in March to£24.9 billion – ahead of the 4.3 per cent rise that was forecast – primarily driven by food sales.

Capital Economics UK economist Vicky Redwood said: “The 0.4 per cent fall in UK retail sales volumes in March was not at all bad considering that it reversed just a fraction of the 2.6 per cent rise seen over the previous two months – especially given that this rise was revised up from an initial estimate of 2.1 per cent.”