Retail sales volumes remained flat this month, according to figures released today, against expectations of growth.
Despite high expectations around the Easter trading period, sales disappointed, according to the CBI’s latest monthly Distributive Trades Survey, remaining “broadly unchanged” in the year to April, the lowest balance since August last year.
Following a weakening in sales growth first seen last November, sales volumes sit well below average for this time of year while the volume of orders has also fallen on the same period in 2012.
Stock levels continue to remain above the average, relative to expected demand and expectations for May have “dampened”, a statement from the CBI said as both sales volumes and orders are expected to decline further.
“Retailers were frustrated this month by the on-going stagnation in sales growth,” noted Barry Williams, Asda Chief Merchandising Officer for Food, and Chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Survey Panel.
“This may be explained in part by the unseasonal weather we suffered, but there is no doubt that high street conditions are tricky with consumers lacking the confidence to go out and spend, as they still feel the pinch in their pocket.”
Squeezes on real pay as well as falling employment are piling pressure on cash-strapped consumers and detrimentally affecting struggling high street retailers, according to Capital Economics Assistant Economist Michael Pearce, who warned of darker times ahead.
He commented: “The fall in April’s CBI Distributive Trades Survey provides further reason to think that the pick-up in the consumer sector earlier this year was just temporary.
“With employment now falling and the squeeze on real pay intensifying, retailers face an increasingly hostile environment.
“With the fundamental drivers of retail spending remaining weak, we see little chance of retail sales rising strongly this year.”