Retail sales fall flat for third consecutive month, CBI finds

Retail sales volumes were flat for the third consecutive month in the year to January with no growth expected next month, according to the latest monthly CBI Distributive Trends Survey.

The figures indicate retail sales volumes posted no growth in the year to January (0%, unchanged from December) and that retailers expect sales volumes to also remain unchanged in the year to February.

Orders placed with suppliers also fell further down from -10% to -17% with a broadly similar pace of decline expected next month (-19%).

CBI added that sales were seen as “poor” for the time of year, but to a lesser degree than in December and levels are expected to remain below seasonal norms in the year to February.

In addition, it found by sub-sector the biggest positive contribution to volume growth came from non-specialised stores (department stores). This was offset by negative contributions from retailers of other normal goods ( jewellery, flowers and watches), household furniture, and from hardware and DIY stores.

Anna Leach, CBI deputy chief economist, said: “Both official data and business surveys are painting a picture of subdued activity for retailers. A challenging Christmas has extended into the New Year, with little expectation of any improvement soon.

“2020 looks set to be another tough year for the sector as growth in households’ disposable income is set to remain modest and retailers continue to battle longer-term issues such as digital disruption and the cumulative burden of policy costs. The upcoming Budget provides an opportunity for the chancellor to support retailers, primarily by fixing the broken business rates system.”

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