Inflation puts skids under high street sales

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The Independent Online

High street sales came off the boil in the first half of April as shoppers stung by rising inflation shied away from expensive purchases, the CBI warned yesterday.

The organisation's distributive trades survey showed a 6 per cent balance of retailers saw lower sales than a year ago, deflating rising hopes of a sustained revival after encouraging sales in recent months. A combination of glorious weather and a petrol panic gave retailers their best month in more than a year in March, according to official figures.

There was "solid" growth for clothing and footwear outlets, but supermarkets came under pressure and car dealers reported a big drop in year-on-year sales. This came against a backdrop of renewed worries on inflation, which crept up for the first time in six months during March.

Judith McKenna, who chairs the CBI's distributive trades panel, said: "The situation remains fragile. Consumers are still holding off from buying bigger ticket items, and opting to spend on smaller 'treat' purchases that give them a lift without breaking the budget."