New retail sales figures contrasts ONS’s gloomy data

New figures which contrast sharply to those put out by the Office for National Statistics last week show that retail sales exceeded expectations and grew at the fastest pace since 2015.

The CBI Distributive Trades Survey shows that consumer confidence remains buoyant, with 59 per cent of retailers saying sales volumes were up in April compared to a year ago.

Meanwhile, 21 per cent said they were down, giving a balance of 38 per cent growth – the highest figure since September 2015’s 49 per cent.

The survey of 112 companies, of which 57 were retailers, also showed that orders placed on suppliers has risen at the strongest rate for a year and a half.

The figures come as the ONS last week released data that indicated the retail sector had recorded its biggest fall in sales for seven years in the three months to March, thanks to rising living costs eating into household spending.

On a three-month basis from January to March sales dropped 1.4 per cent, which the ONS called “the third consecutive decrease for the underlying 3 month on 3 month pattern.”

READ MORE: Retail sales drops to lowest rate in 7 years

On a month-to-month basis, sales dropped by 1.8 per cent, well below the 0.2 per cent expectation.

However, the CBI said April’s strong figures were better than expected, especially since the survey did not cover the peak shopping period over Easter.

Nonetheless, the CBI‘s survey also showed that retailers expected sales growth to slow next month, with the index falling back to positive 16.

“The warm weather in early April might go some way to explaining the uptick, with sales by clothing shops and grocers driving overall growth,” CBI principal economist Ben Jones said.

“However, retailers are still cautious over the outlook, expecting slower growth over the year to May, as higher inflation eats into household spending.

“With price competition remaining fierce and rising costs squeezing margins, retailers face mounting pressures in the months ahead.”

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