UK retail sales continued to slow the throughout February with fashion, furniture and department stores lagging behind, while retail employment continued to drop.
According to the CBI Quarterly Distributive Trades Survey, retail sales dropped to +8, as 32 per cent of respondents reported sales growth compared to 24 per cent reporting sales decline.
This is below both January’s +12 performance and Reuters analysts’ predictions of +13.
Grocers and hardware stores enjoyed strong sales growth, rising 65 per cent and 67 per cent respectively.
However, this was largely offset by a 77 per cent drop in clothing and a 57 per cent drop in footwear and leather.
Employment in the retail sector also declined for the fifth quarter in a row, but slowed to the lowest rate of decline in a year.
Despite this, for the first time since November 2016, retailers are expecting their situations to improve over the coming quarter.
“While trading conditions remain tough, it’s encouraging to see retailers’ investment intentions improving to their highest since August 2015, in addition to signs of renewed business optimism for the first time in more than a year,” CBI head of economic intelligence Anna Leach said.
“With labour-intensive businesses such as retailers finding it increasingly difficult to find workers, agreeing a jobs-first transition between the EU and the UK, in writing, by the end of March would provide some much-needed certainty.”