UK retailers say sales volumes this month are at their worst levels for the time of year since the spring of 2009, and investment intentions in the sector have deteriorated to the weakest since comparable records began in 1983.

The latest distributive trades survey from the Confederation of British Industry, conducted between April 26 and May 16, also shows that UK retail sales volumes have fallen in recent weeks at the sharpest year-on-year pace since October 2017.

Subtracting the proportion of UK retailers reporting a rise in sales volumes from that posting a fall, a balance of 27 per cent

experienced a year-on-year drop in the latest survey. This decline was broadly based.

A balance of 40% of UK

retailers reported sales volumes were poor for the time of year. This was the worst reading for this question since March 2009.

A net 65% of respondents signalled investment in the coming year would be weaker than in the prior 12 months, the worst such balance in the survey’s history.

The CBI noted: “The volume of sales for the time of year…weakened, to [the] poorest since March 2009, although [sales volumes] are expected to be broadly in line with seasonal norms next month.”

CBI deputy chief economist Anna Leach said: “[The] survey paints a dismal picture of business conditions for retailers, who face a grim combination of tough trading conditions, Brexit uncertainty and a burdensome outdated business rates regime, which have collectively pushed investment intentions to a record low.”

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY ITEM Club think-tank, said: “A sharply weakened CBI distributive sales survey for May fuels suspicion that consumer spending is likely to be significantly softer in the second quarter.”

Seasonally adjusted figures published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics showed UK retail sales volumes were flat month-on-month in April.