RETAIL sales in Britain fell at their fastest monthly pace in more than two years in April, after a record drop in fuel sales and a weather-related drop in clothing sales, official data showed yesterday.
The weak start into the second quarter may raise speculation about another cash boost from the Bank of England.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales volumes fell 2.3pc on the month -- its biggest drop since January 2010 and more than twice as fast than forecast. The fall more than reversed an upwardly revised 2pc rise in March.
On the year, sales fell 1.1pc -- confounding economists' forecasts for an annual rise of 1pc.
The ONS said the monthly decline was driven by a record drop in fuel sales following panic buying of fuel in March, which had resulted in petrol stations being unable to restock in time in April.
Record rainfall in April meanwhile depressed sales of clothing and footwear, which fell at its sharpest monthly pace since June 2008.
Business surveys had indicated that retailers struggled in April, though the CBI survey had also shown that retailers were more confident about the month ahead.
However, with inflation still outpacing meagre wage increases and the eurozone crisis still denting confidence, many Britons remain reluctant to increase spending.