British retailers saw their sales fall this month as the cost-of-living squeeze tightened, the latest survey from the Confederation of British Industry has showed.
The CBI's monthly retail sales balance fell to +9 from +14 in February. A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to +10.
The CBI's sales-for-the-time-of-year gauge suffered a big fall, sinking to -23 from February's +16.
'A Mediocre March'
"Retailers had a mediocre March, with sales reported as being below seasonal norms," Martin Sartorius, principal economist at the CBI, said.
"The cost-of-living crisis is looming large across the sector, as households' wallets are being hit by the fastest rate of inflation in decades.
Sartorious said a half-yearly budget update announced by finance minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday outlined new support for people on low incomes.
"But further action will be needed to galvanise consumer confidence, shore up incomes, and support spending on UK high streets in the tough months to come," he said.
Slower Sales Growth In February
In February, British retailers reported slower sales growth but said demand was better than normal for the time of year as the Omicron wave of coronavirus cases eased.
In this period, British shoppers were hit by the biggest price rises from major retailers since 2011, according to a survey that adds to signs of fast-rising inflation.
The British Retail Consortium said that shop prices rose by 1.8% in February compared with a year earlier, the fastest annual increase since November 2011 and speeding up from 1.5% in January.