Retail sales pick up the pace

Posted: 2 May 2017

RETAIL sales growth accelerated in the year to April, with volumes rising faster than expected, according to the latest monthly CBI Distributive Trades Survey.

The survey of 112 firms, of which 57 were retailers, showed that the volume of sales grew at the fastest pace since September 2015 in the year to April, with orders placed on suppliers rising at the strongest rate for a year-and-a-half. Overall, sales for the time of year were considered to be slightly above seasonal norms.

Looking ahead, however, volumes growth is expected to slow in the year to May and sales are tipped to be broadly average for the time of year, with orders expected to be largely unchanged.

Within the retail sector, the clothing and grocers sectors performed particularly strongly, while retailers of furniture and carpets and specialist food and drink stores reported a second consecutive month of falling sales.

Internet sales continued to grow at a solid pace in the year to April, in line with the long-run average, and are expected to grow at a broadly similar pace in May.

Meanwhile, wholesaling saw robust growth in sales volumes in the year to April, while motor trades reported slowing sales, more rapidly than expected.

Ben Jones, CBI Principal Economist, said: “Retail sales held up better than expected, especially considering that the Survey did not cover the Easter period. The warm weather in early April might go some way to explaining the uptick, with sales by clothing shops and grocers driving overall growth.

“However, retailers are still cautious over the outlook, expecting slower growth over the year to May, as higher inflation eats into household spending. With price competition remaining fierce and rising costs squeezing margins, retailers face mounting pressures in the months ahead.”

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