UK retail sales volumes tumbled by much more than forecast last month, official figures reveal.

Given freezing temperatures and heavy snow arising from the ‘Beast from the East’ weather system, economists had predicted a 0.5 per cent month-on-month drop in retail sales volumes in March. But the actual drop was 1.2%, more than reversing a 0.8% rise in February. This meant retail sales volumes in the first quarter were down 0.5% on the previous three months.

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY ITEM Club think-tank, noted the underlying retail sales performance had “already been weak in the early months of 2018 as consumer spending power remained limited”.