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Flat retail sales in March, says CBI

Sales volumes in the retail sector during March saw no significant improvement on last month, a new report from business representative group the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) showed today.

The CBI’s latest Distributive Trades Survey shows that 33 per cent of retailers surveyed this month claim sales volumes have been up on a year ago but exactly the same number reported a fall in trading.

Despite this steadying of business after a period of turbulence for the industry, most retailers still stated that sales were low for this time of year and a small majority of them expected both the volume of sales & orders to remain subdued next month.

Judith McKenna, Chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel and Asda Chief Operating Officer, said: “It is encouraging that sales on our high streets are stabilising and, while we are still not seeing growth, conditions have improved since the end of last year.

“However, the general retail outlook remains tough and firms expect volumes of sales and orders to fall next month. The squeeze on people’s pockets continues to bite, despite a recent fall in inflation, with wage growth modest and fuel costs remaining high.”

Stock levels rose last month, relative to demand, with the number of businesses reporting a rise minus those reporting a fall producing a balance of +22 per cent, but levels are expected to fall again next month.

Of all of the retail sectors, furniture & carpet traders saw the greatest improvement during March (+58 on balance), the second consecutive month of growth, while grocers continued the rises seen since December last year with a balance of +33 per cent.

Source : Jon Whiteaker – Retail Gazette

27 March 2012
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