British retail sales volumes stagnated in March, representing the first time that sales have not grown in monthly terms since December, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday.

Economists polled by Reuters had mostly forecast sales volumes would increase by 0.3% on the month after high inflation eased recently.

But the ONS said sales volumes showed no growth at 0.0% last month after rising by an upwardly revised 0.1% in February.

"Hardware stores, furniture shops, petrol stations and clothing stores all reported a rise in sales," ONS senior statistician Heather Bovill said.

"However, these gains were offset by falling food sales and in department stores where retailers say higher prices hit trading. Looking at the longer-term picture, across the latest three months retail sales increased after a poor Christmas.”

Sterling fell briefly against the U.S. dollar immediately after the data was published.

Sales volumes excluding fuel sales were down 0.3% on the month, the ONS said.


(Reporting by Suban Abdulla; editing by William Schomberg)