Surprise pick-up in high street sales

Nia Williams

February 26, 2010

Its latest Distributive Trades Survey also revealed that although price inflation has accelerated sharply, the fall in employment has slowed, and investment intentions have stabilised for the first time in over two years.

Asked how their sales volumes in early February compared against the same period in 2009, 23% said they were lower, while 46% said they were up. The resulting balance of +23% is a clear improvement on January (-8%) and is the strongest year-on-year increase in sales since May 2007 (+31%). It also bettered retailers’ expectations that there would be little change in sales volumes on a year ago (-1%).

A balance of 16% of retailers expect that, compared with last March, there will be further growth next month.

Commenting, Andy Clarke, chairman of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel, and chief operating officer of Asda, said: “Sales have been stronger this month than many retailers predicted they would be, but that’s not surprising as January was impacted by VAT changes and forward buys in December.

“Retailers don’t think February’s growth spurt will be matched in March, but the sector can take some reassurance that job losses are easing off and capital expenditure plans are stabilising.

“While retailers see some growth ahead, the road to recovery through 2010 is likely to be fragile. Worries about the economy and upcoming pay freezes are likely to ensure that shoppers remain cautious.”

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