Business leaders warned of a Christmas sales meltdown today after a bigger than expected fall in high street sales in the first half of November.

A 46% balance of retailers said sales were below a year a year ago, while 40% predicted worse to come next month, the CBI business group's distributive trades survey found.

The gloom caps a week which has seen Woolworths and MFI crash into administration and disappointing updates from other big names such as Currys' owner DSG International.

Andy Clarke, chairman of the CBI's distributive trades panel, said: "Christmas is going to be extremely tough this year, with retailers having to work harder than ever to keep the tills ringing."