By Marcus Leach

A record fall in petrol sales saw UK retail sales volumes fall by 2.3% in April, according to official data.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that fuel sales fell by 13.2% in April, following the panic buying of petrol in March.

Sales of clothing and footwear were also affected by April's record rainfall, and the data comes after March saw a 2% rise in sales.

For the year, sales fell by 1.1%, whereas analysts had forecast a rise of 1%.

"If there was ever a retail sales number that suggested an economy needed further stimulus then this was one; April’s was the lowest since January 2010," Jeremy Cook, chief economist at currency experts, World First, said.

“We had forecast that the number would be poor following the weather and a drop in purchases following the fuel crisis that wasn’t, but a slash of 2.3% was nowhere near consensus views.

"The inflation picture won’t have helped either, although yesterday’s figures suggested that retailers are starting to lower prices as demand slips."

British Retail Consortium Director General, Stephen Robertson, said that the poor figures were not just about the drop in fuel sales.

"This is not just about petrol buying. Miserable weather sums up the mood of many customers and compounded long-standing difficulties for retailers, particularly those trying to sell clothing and shoes," he said.

"Interest in summer fashions and outdoor products had been good in March's sun but April was a washout. Sales of food held up but even there spending was down on a year ago as hard-up customers sought out value even more determinedly.

"April sales were always going to struggle against a strong performance a year ago helped by better weather, a later Easter and an extra bank holiday then but real-terms sales declines are bad news.

"Falling inflation offers some hope for customers but disposable incomes are still dropping and people are not spending on things that aren't immediate needs.

"Retailers are hoping the return of sun in the last few days and the build- up to this summer's big events produces a much- needed lift in the public mood but a fundamental turnaround remains illusory."


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