A stabilising of UK sales this month was a much better than expected performance from the retail sector, a new report reveals.
Figures produced by business representative group the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) show that 34 per cent of retailers surveyed over the first two weeks of February said that the volume of their sales had grown in the previous 12 months.
With 36 per cent saying that they had seen a reduction, the overall balance was minus two per cent, much higher than the -22 per cent last year and better then the predicted balance for the month of negative ten per cent.
Judith McKenna, Chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel and Chief Operating Officer of grocery chain Asda, pointed to “positive signs” on the high street but admitted that consumers are still tending to steering clear of all but essential purchases.
“With disposable incomes under constant pressure, retailers remain concerned about the general business outlook for the rest of 2012,” she added.
Across the sectors, clothing recorded its worst balance, -41 per cent, since March 2009, while durable household goods and hardware & DIY recording rates respectively of -100 per cent and -90 per cent.
Grocers saw the biggest growth of any product category with a balance of +55 per cent, while online shopping remained increasingly popular with consumers as non-store retailing posted a balance of +71 per cent.
Richard Lowe, Head of Retail & Wholesale at Barclays Corporate, said: “Today’s figures are well above expectations and will provide a shot in the arm for the high street. It follows last week’s boost from Government figures showing Britain is borrowing less than expected.
“All eyes are now on the Chancellor and next month’s Budget, although the prospect of significant tax giveaways which would increase household incomes and encourage consumer spending are already being played down.”