LONDON, (Reuters) - British retail sales fell for the first time in five months in March as heavy snowfall combined with the financial strains on many households, a survey by the Confederation of British Industry showed on Wednesday.
The CBI distributive trades survey’s retail sales balance fell to -8 from +8 in February, confounding a median forecast of +15 in a Reuters poll of economists.
“Against a backdrop of stagnating household incomes and weak consumer confidence, the lengthy cold snap earlier this month has heaped added pressure on retailers,” Ben Jones, a CBI economist, said.
“Freezing conditions and transport disruption caused people to avoid the high street. With many forced to work from home, telecoms firms saw record internet traffic, yet on-line shopping slowed sharply given the potential for disrupted deliveries.”
A measure of sales for the time of year was the weakest since April 2013, the survey showed.
Retailers expected sales volumes and orders to grow in April but only at a subdued pace.
The Bank of England has said it expects overall economic growth in Britain in the first quarter of 2018 might have been slower than it previously expected because of the snowfall.
The monthly survey was conducted between Feb. 27 and March 14.
Reporting by William Schomberg; editing by Alistair Smout