Third month of growth in retail sector

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A THIRD consecutive month of increased year-on-year sales is providing some cause for optimism among retailers.

The CBI’s latest quarterly Distributive Trades Survey, released yesterday, showed 49 per cent of retailers had had higher sales figures than for the same period last year for the third month in a row.

Compared to this, just 16 per cent reported a reduction in sales, leaving the balance at 33 per cent up on last year – the highest since June, which was 42 per cent, and slightly ahead of the expected 27 per cent.

Anna Leach, CBI head of economic analysis, said: “This month’s survey is reason to be cheerful as we head into the festive period. Retailers across the board will be heartened by these encouraging results.

“The increase in employment, along with expectations for improvement in the business situation over the next quarter, point to a welcome boost to the sector.

“But the fact that retailers are still reluctant to authorise new capital expenditure shows that there is some way to go before activity on the high street is back to normal.”

A warning note was also sounded, with retailers reporting that the volume of sales is around 15 per cent lower than expected for the time of year. That caution was echoed by IHS Global Insight, which said recent indications were that the growing consumer purchasing power could slow, and that the boost in consumer confidence might not continue.

A spokesman added: “Despite the strong November CBI survey and retailers’ relative optimism for December sales, retailers are far from guaranteed a merry Christmas.”