Indicating that retail sales in the UK have fallen steeply in the year to March, 63% of participants in the latest Distributive Trades Survey conducted by the Confederation of British Industry revealed that the year-on-year sales volume decreased in the first half of March. Only 19% of retailers said the volume increased.

The resulting balance was minus 44%, severe than minus 25% recorded in February. It has thus marked a return to the heavy falls seen in the three months prior to February, the CBI said.

The forward-looking indicator suggests that retailers do not foresee an improvement in April, when sales volumes are expected to fall at a similar rate of minus 42%.

The three month moving average of sales volumes, which smoothes out monthly peaks and troughs, remained firmly negative, showing a balance of minus 39%. But it showed a slight improvement on February's minus 42%.

Andy Clarke, Chairman of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel, and Chief Operating Officer of Asda said, With unemployment rising and household incomes struggling, the high street faces some testing times ahead.

The recession continues to force consumers to re-examine every item of spending. Only those retailers who have matched their offering to those new patterns of behavior are faring well.

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