Retail sales have expanded at steady pace over past 12 months

The survey of 116 firms, consisting of 65 retailers, showed that growth in the volumes of sales was similar to that seen in February, but is set to accelerate in the year to April.

Sales for the time of year were considered to be slightly below seasonal norms. Orders placed on suppliers fell again over the year, but are set to rise somewhat next month.

The moderate increase in headline retail sales volumes was driven by the grocery and clothing sectors. Year-on-year growth in internet sales volumes picked up to broadly in line with the long-run average. Internet sales volumes are expected to grow at broadly similar pace in the year to April.

Anna Leach, CBI Head of Economic Intelligence, said: “It’s encouraging to see that sales volumes growth is holding up and expectations have strengthened.

“However, retailers continue to be squeezed by rising cost pressures on the one hand, and intense competition on the other, which will limit their ability to raise prices. With household spending growth set to slow as inflation rises, retailers seem likely to remain under pressure through this year.”