High street sales recover their sparkle, according to latest CBI figures

Retail sales have recovered strongly in the year to December, bouncing back after two disappointing months, the Confederation of British Industry has confirmed.

Grocers, department stores and clothing shops, which had seen sales fall in the year to November, saw sales rebound strongly, according to the CBI’s latest distributive trades survey of 106 firms.

Retailers expect robust growth in sales volumes to continue in the year to January.

Elsewhere, wholesalers’ sales were broadly flat on a year ago for a second consecutive month, while sales were flat in the motor trade sector.

Barry Williams, Asda chief merchandising officer for food and chair of the CBI distributive trades survey panel, says: “After a disappointing couple of months, sales volumes in December recovered their sparkle, beating retailers’ expectations.

“Customers have clearly held off spending through the autumn and we’re only now seeing them start to hit the stores.

“Retailers are now gearing up for the crucial pre-Christmas week and are optimistic for the New Year.”

Key findings:
• 48 per cent of respondents reported sales were up on a year ago, while 14 per cent said they were down.

• 31 per cent expect sales growth to continue next month, while two per cent expect sales to decrease.

• Many sub-sectors saw a strong sales performance: grocers (+40 per cent), non-specialised stores (including department stores) (+36 per cent) and clothing (+33 per cent) all rebounded from negative balances in November (-20 per cent, -28 per cent and -15 per cent respectively).

• 36 per cent placed more orders with suppliers than they did a year ago and 10 per cent placed fewer orders.

• 37 per cent of wholesalers reported sales were up on a year ago, while 39 per cent said they were down.

• Sales of building materials (+48 per cent), clothing, textiles and footwear (+30 per cent) and durable household goods (+30 per cent) grew, whereas food and drink (-59 per cent) fell.

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