Retail sales were "largely unaffected" by the terrorist attacks on London on July 7, the CBI said yesterday, although its July distributive trades survey yesterday showed sales falling almost as heavily as in June.
But over the latest three months, the number of shopkeepers saying the volume of their sales were down has outnumbered those reporting an improvement by an average of nearly 15 per cent - the worst underlying trend recorded in the 22-year history of the CBI's distributive trades survey.
Last month's adverse balance was minus 18 per cent, after minus 19 per cent in June and minus seven per cent in May. This survey has not shown a positive balance since February.
Sir Digby Jones, the CBI's director general took the occasion to reiterate his call for an immediate cut in the cost of borrowing at this week's, meeting of the Bank of England's interest-setting monetary policy committee.
"Considered alongside the weakness of order books in the manufacturing sector and the depressed state of the housing market, a marked slowdown in the economy is clear to see, as (National Statistics) has acknowledged," he said.
As the risk of inflation remains low, an interest cut tomorrow is essential to maintain consumer confidence, Sir Digby declared.
"The argument for a 'wait and see' approach is fading fast. It is time for the Bank of England to get off the fence."
Motor dealers fared less badly than they had feared last month. Their sales of vehicles were still down on July last year, but the fall was much more moderate than in June.
The CBI, which conducted the survey between June 29 and July 20, said a preliminary analysis of the findings showed that the bomb explosions on July 7 had little overall effect.