UK: CBI survey reveals strengthening growth in retail sales

Retail sales in the year to August grew at their fastest pace since November 2012, according to the

Retail sales in the year to August grew at their fastest pace since November 2012, according to the CBI. - Credit: Archant

Retail sales in the year to August grew at the fastest pace since November 2012 and exceeded expectations, according to the CBI’s latest quarterly Distributive Trades Survey.

This was the second consecutive quarter of growth, with the improvement broadly based across a number of sectors, with clothing sales, grocers and recreational goods performing particularly well.

Retailers reported that sales volumes were above average for the time year, for the first time since January 2011, and sales are expected to grow robustly again in September.

Employment in the sector grew at its fastest pace since May 2002 and is expected to grow firmly again next month. Retailers also expect their overall business situation to improve over the next three months, with the survey balance at its highest for three years.

Elsewhere, both wholesaling and motor trades sales volumes rose again in the year to August and are both expected to grow solidly again in September.

Barry Williams, Asda’s chief merchandising officer for food and chairman of the CBI Distributive Trades Survey Panel, said: “The feel-good factor from the heatwave, summer sales, royal baby fever and sporting victories has helped boost the high street, with clothing retailers and grocers benefiting in particular.

“A rise in spending is welcome news, but the bottom line is that confidence will not bounce back fully until family finances improve further.

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“Retailers expect another similarly strong month of sales growth in September, but this isn’t a time to rest on our laurels as shoppers may return to cautious spending until they see a sustained improvement to the pound in their pocket or, dare I say it in August, until the festive spirit kicks in.”

Michael Pearce, assistant economist at Capital Economics, said: “August’s improvement in the CBI Distributive Trades Survey suggests that the underlying recovery in the retail sector has strengthened further.

“But the fact that retailers have been unable to push through price rises underlines our view that the consumer recovery remains fragile.”