The survey of 106 firms showed that sales have grown year-on-year for the fourth consecutive month. However, sales growth weakened on last month to a greater extent than expected.
Sales are expected to pick up again in the year to April and if realised, this will bring the growth rate back into line with February, which was the strongest seen since the onset of the financial crisis.
Grocers’ sales grew solidly, but at the slowest rate in four months and, along with falling sales in non-specialised stores (such as department stores), this contributed to overall slower annual growth in March.
Internet retail sales volumes continued to rise strongly in the year to March, with the pace of growth remaining in line with its long-run average (since August 2009).
Barry Williams, Asda Chief Merchandising Officer for Food, and Chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Survey Panel, said: “It’s promising to see a run of positive growth rates on the high street, with sales up on a year ago for the fourth month in a row. We’re hopeful that this will continue, but there are still signs that this needs to be a cautious hope.
“The pace of growth has slowed, likely in part down to the later timing of Mother’s Day and Easter this year – conversely, this is the same reason many retailers are looking forward to more robust growth next month.