Retail sales in the United Kingdom fell by 1.5 per cent in April, compared to the same month last year, when sales were up by 2.4 per cent. From February to April, sales were down at 0.6 per cent against the previous year. The year-on-year decline in March and April were the worst since 2005.

Commenting on the situation, Stephen Robertson, director-general, BRC said: “This is the first time in three years we have had two months in a row of year-on-year falls sales. With higher fuel and utility bills eating away at people’s spare cash, they are concentrating on essentials like food. Despite heavy discounting, clothing and footwear were at their weakest for at least eight years and more expensive housing-related goods continue to struggle.”

Food sales picked up after slowing in March, but clothing and footwear fell further, to their worst for at least eight years. Furniture and home wares also remained down, despite continued discounting and promotions.

KPMG head of retail Helen Dickinson said: “All sectors, with the exception of food, were in negative like-for-like territory for the month. April showed a double-digit decline for clothing and footwear.

London’s West End also experienced a slowdown in April. Shopper footfall was down by 6.3 per cent year-on-year, but was up at 10.3 per cent for the month.