Retail sales fell 1.5% on a like-for-like basis last month, but factory gate prices leapt 1.4%, according to official data.

The British Retail Consortium said it was the first time in three years that two consecutive months of year-on-year sales declines had been recorded, and was further evidence that hard-pressed customers were watching the pounds.

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics said the 1.4% increase in factory gate prices was the highest monthly increase since records began in 1986, and had been driven by soaring petrol costs, higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco and rising steel scrap prices.