Britain's retail recovery, a bright spot in the COVID-hit economy, came to a halt this month after several months of improvement, an industry survey showed on Tuesday.
The Confederation of British Industry's (CBI) monthly gauge of retail sales fell to -23 in October, its lowest level since June, after hitting an 18-month high of +11 in September.
A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to a reading of +1.
The figures follow other surveys in recent days that show consumer confidence declined sharply this month amid a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
'A Warning Sign'
"The fall in retail sales in October is a warning sign of a further loss of momentum in the economy as coronavirus cases pick up and restrictions are tightened across many parts of the country," CBI economist Ben Jones said.
He warned that retailers faced a difficult Christmas trading period.
Retailers' expectations for sales in November fell sharply and they increasingly expect to cut orders to suppliers, the survey showed.