A toxic mix of pay freezes, poor weather and high inflation were blamed for the latest signs of a flagging high street.
The CBI's latest distributive trades survey, which covers the first two weeks of February, showed just 8 per cent of retailers reporting stronger sales than a year ago.
This was the lowest since last September, and the third month in a row of slowing growth as grocery chains were particularly hard hit.
Barry Williams, Asda's chief food merchandising officer and the chairman of the CBI's survey panel, said trading was "tough".
He warned: "Clearly, the road to recovery remains fragile. Worries about the economy, pay freezes and the rising cost of living will mean shoppers remain cautious for the foreseeable future."