The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has called on the Government to freeze business rates in 2013, after it found that retail sales growth was now averaging half what it was in the years before the Lehman Brothers collapse. It said that the figures showed that the impact of the global financial crisis on UK retailers had been severe, long lasting and continued to be felt. The BRC called on the Government to restore consumer confidence by controlling the costs it imposes on households – for example by scrapping the postponed fuel duty increase, now due in January and by supporting businesses by controlling the costs it imposes on them. It found that year-on-year growth in the total value of retail sales had averaged just 2.1% over the last two years, which is below inflation meaning sales volumes have stagnated. It also said that like-for-like sales value growth had hovered around zero over the last two years. The BRC said: “With consumer spending having fallen for three quarters in a row now, the consumer sector has led the economy into a double dip recession. “UK economic output remains four per cent below its pre-recession peak and the continued weak economic situation has ensured that consumer confidence remains close to the record lows of 2008. The squeeze on real disposable incomes has persisted for almost three years and the impact on spending on essential items has intensified recently.” BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “Four years on from this key event in the banking crisis, which sent retail sales plummeting, sales growth is still less than half what it was before. Sales volumes are now going backwards. “Representing over 5% of GDP and more than 10% of jobs, retail is a vital part of the UK economy and a key indicator of its health. Retail is fundamentally resilient. It's still the biggest private sector employer in the country but this analysis vividly demonstrates the lasting blow dealt to households and to retail sales by the crisis of 2008. “Any successful economic fight back needs a return to strength for the retail sector. It's not enough just to talk about growth. We need the Government to rebuild confidence, support customers and retailers and get spending going again by holding back the costs it is responsible for. “Scrapping the postponed fuel duty rise, now due in January, and freezing Business rates next year are top of my list.”