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Retail growth slowed in February, says CBI

Published: 27 February 2013
The first two weeks of February saw sales volumes continue to strengthen, but the pace of growth slowed for the third consecutive month, according to the latest CBI distributive trades survey.
Retail growth slowed in February, says CBI
It revealed that while 37% of retailers reported an increase in sales volume in the year to February, 29% reported a reduction, resulting in a balance of +8%, the lowest figure since September 2012's +6% result.

The volume of orders fell sharply at -19% against expectations they would remain flat, the CBI suggested this was a reflection of the loss of momentum in volume of sales, where expectations were for a resulting balance of+ 13%.

Furniture and carpets was one of the most positive sub-sectors highlighted in the survey, with 61% more retailers reporting an uptake in sales volumes. Non-store goods, including internet and mail order purchases, also saw a positive result of +70%. Grocers, on the other hand, were particularly badly hit with their first decrease in sales volumes (-26%) since April 2012 (-19%) and the lowest figure since November 2008 (-46%).

CBI distributive trades survey panel chair Barry Williams said: "We all know trading is tough, and the bad weather hasn't exactly been encouraging shoppers to hit the high street lately. But there is a glimmer of hope for retailers with the news that sales are growing, even if at a slower pace than in recent months.

"Clearly, the road to recovery remains fragile. Worries about the economy, pay freezes and the rising cost of living will mean shoppers remain cautious for the foreseeable future."

Price inflation rose more sharply than expected this quarter (+40% compared with expectations of +24%), but was in line with its long-run average of +40%.

Looking ahead, retailers expect both the volume of sales and orders placed upon suppliers to see little change in March. Attitudes remain positive, however, about the general business situation over the next three months, and saw a modest improvement of 5% on the previous quarter (up from +7% to +12%).

For wholesalers, volumes of sales (+8%) were better than the expected balance of -1%, while volumes of orders remained flat at -2%.

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