UK Shoppers bought less fuel and food in October as they were hit by rising living costs and poor weather, according to official figures.
The volume of products sold last month fell by 0.3 per cent to the lowest level since February 2021 when large parts of the UK were in Covid lockdowns.
Retail sales had widely been forecast to grow in October.
The worse-than-expected data emerged as recent figures showed the UK economy was failing to grow.
Gross domestic product – the amount of the goods and services produced by the UK – flatlined between July and September and the Bank of England expects only subdued growth until 2025.
Next week, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will make his Autumn Statement when he will set out the government’s tax and spending plans and his strategy to grow the economy.
Commenting on the latest data, the Office for National Statistics said petrol and diesel sales may have been “affected by increasing fuel prices”.
Demand for other goods was also lower, said the ONS.
“It was another poor month for household goods and clothes stores with these retailers reporting that cost of living pressures, reduced footfall and poor weather hit them hard,” said Heather Bovill, deputy director for survey and economic indicators at the ONS.
During October, Storm Babet hit much of the UK resulting in “exceptional rainfall”, according to the Met Office.
Fuel sales fell by 2pc between September and Octobers with retailers reporting that “consumers were spending their money more cautiously, alongside the impact of bad weather”.
Supermarkets said shoppers were buying more food, but specialist stores, such as butchers and bakers, recorded a decline. Sales of alcohol and tobacco also dropped, down 4.2pc and 10.4pc, respectively.
Retailers said shoppers “were buying cheaper products and prioritising important items”.
The retail sector is heading into its most important trading period which includes Christmas.
Compared to last October, retail sales volumes were 2.7pc lower.
The ONS also revised down its reading of retail sales in September to a drop of 1.1pc after initially estimating a decline of 0.9pc.