Retail sales fell unexpectedly last month to the lowest level since March this year, the CBI has said.

The CBI's monthly survey of distributive trades found that while 38% of retailers said that sales were up on a year ago, 42% said that sales were down, leaving a balance of -4%.

John Longworth, chairman of the CBI's DTS panel and executive director of Asda, said: “It remains to be seen whether this is a return to the tough conditions seen during 2005 and early 2006, or simply a blip in an otherwise upward trend.”