UK retail sales increased above expectations, data released today reveals, though the pace of sales growth slowed in the year to January.
According to the CBI’s first monthly Distributive Trades Survey of the year, the overall sales balance declined to 17 per cent in the first fortnight of January, though analysts had anticipated a balance of just 10 per cent.
Although the CBI noted that this is a considerable fall on the 33 per cent figure posted in November 2012, it added that sales volumes this month were “broadly in line with the average for this time of year”, for the first time in nine months.
Compensating for sales decreases elsewhere in the industry, the grocery sector reported its ninth successive month of rising year-on-year sales, standing at 41 per cent over the period.
However, clothing sales dropped to their lowest level since last August at 13 per cent while specialist food & drink sales fell to -32 per cent, their lowest level since October 2012.
Last week, the Office for National Statistics announced that UK retail sales had fallen 0.1 per cent in December, a greater drop than had been expected and strengthening fears of further overall economic decline.
Judith McKenna, Chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel and Asda Chief Operating Officer said that, although today’s positive figures help combat mixed news from the high street since the start of the year, “we are far from out of the woods.”
She added: “With tough trading conditions and subdued consumer spending adding to the uncertain economic picture, retailers will continue to face tough market conditions in the coming months.”
Retailers anticipate a slight sales dip in February, below the seasonal norm of -7 per cent while year-on-year sales growth is also expected to fall.
Nonetheless, Richard Lowe, Head of Retail & Wholesale at Barclays, believes that the findings should be celebrated during this turbulent period for retail.
“Sales have softened but, importantly, volumes have held so it’s not all bad news for the high street,” he said.
“The sector has certainly suffered a psychological set back in recent weeks but, the best retailers adjusted their business strategies and adapted to the changing consumer climate some time ago and will continue to attract customers whether it be online or in store”.