// Balance of retailers reporting year-on-year growth in sales in March was -45%
// This was the same figure as February, but analysts had expected it to improve to -37%
// Retailers expect sales to grow in April, with expectations balance rising 17% – the first positive outlook since Dec 2019
Retailers have seen sales continue to fall, but expect trade to improve in the coming weeks as lockdown on non-essential retail is lifted, research suggests.
The CBI said a survey of 142 businesses, including 66 retailers, revealed a steep drop in the volume of retail sales in the year to March, highlighting the severe impact of the lockdown for many non-essential businesses.
The balance of retailers reporting year-on-year growth in sales was -45 per cent.
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This is the same figure recorded in February, but analysts had expected it to improve to -37 per cent.
Sales fell particularly sharply in sectors such as clothing, footwear, furniture and carpets and for department stores.
The grocery sector suffered the biggest year-on-year decline in sales since April 2020, although that was in comparison to a period of high demand last March as shoppers stocked up on essential items ahead of the first national lockdown, said the report.
However, looking ahead retailers expect sales to grow in the year to April. The retail sales expectations balance for April rose to 17 per cent from -62 per cent in March.
This marks the first time expectations have been positive since December 2019 and comes ahead of ahead of the re-opening of non-essential shops from April 12 in England and Wales, and April 26 in Scotland.
“Retailers are looking forward to April with a sense of optimism, given the potential reopening of the sector across the UK,” CBI principal economist Ben Jones said.
“However, it is clear that the potential easing of domestic restrictions next month will not be a panacea for all retailers.
“Expectations point to a fairly muted recovery, especially when considering that base effects will tend to flatter annual growth next month, given the historic drop in sales in April 2020.
“Clothing and footwear firms in particular remained fairly downbeat.”
with PA Wires