In the survey of 116 firms, including 54 retailers, non-food retail categories such as department and clothing were among those reporting falling sales.
However, retailers of furniture, DIY and recreational goods reported strong growth, while internet sales growth also increased over the period.
Ben Jones, CBI’s principal economist said: “The fall in retail sales in October is a warning sign of a further loss of momentum in the economy as coronavirus cases pick up and restrictions are tightened across many parts of the country.
“It’s no surprise that sales have dipped despite no new direct restrictions on retail in England, as the evidence from earlier in the year suggests consumers become more cautious as case numbers rise.”
He added: “With footfall still down by one third, many retailers face a difficult run-up to the all-important Christmas period.
“It is vital that local authorities use their discretion over the new Tier 2 grant funding to target support in a way that helps keep town and city centres open for business.”