Published on 30 - May - 2012
Retail sales volumes and outlook improved in May, says CBIFurniture and carpet retailers saw a particularly strong sales increase during the month, with 72% more reporting growth than those reporting decline, according to the latest Distributive Trades Survey from the CBI.
The overall picture from the business lobbying organisation was a cautiously positive one, showing 43% of retailers reporting an increase in sales volumes compared with this time last year, and 23% seeing a fall. The resulting balance of +21% was a little over expectations of +19%.
Retailers' outlook for the next three months gave a positive balance (+3%) for the first time since last November (+11%).
However, 19% more retailers reported that sales were below average for the time of year than those who said otherwise. Despite the increase in sales volumes, stock levels rose unexpectedly relative to expected demand (+23%, compared with an expectation of +3%), with the survey balance now similar to that in March.
In the wholesale sector, the volume of sales grew solidly (+36%) and the volume of orders placed upon suppliers also increased (+15%), with both results beating expectations (-9% and -12% respectively).
Non-specialised retailers, including department stores, saw a sales increase, with 65% more reporting improvement than decline. Employment in retail was also up on a year ago with a balance of +12% for the first time since February 2003. In June retailers expect to continue recruiting more staff compared with last year (+7%).
Looking ahead, retailers expect sales volumes to grow again on a year ago in June (+25%) and the business situation to be stable over the next three months (+3%), following expectations of a modest deterioration in recent quarters.
The CBI distributive trades panel chief and ASDA chief operating officer Judith McKenna said: "It's encouraging to see high-street sales up compared to a year ago, and that business sentiment about the next three months has improved.
"However, sales are still below the average for the time of year and the combination of high unemployment, slow wage growth and weak consumer confidence means that the retail sector is likely to remain under pressure in the short term."
Firms responding to the DTS are responsible for a third of employment in retailing.
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