Awful August leaves high street miserable

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CBI survey suggests sales decline is steepest for more than a year.

It would appear August is turning into a damp squib for many retailers after the CBI said today that sales volumes fell at the fastest pace for over a year during the first two weeks of the month.

The CBI’s latest quarterly Distributive Trades Survey found that 31% of retailers saw the volume of sales rise in the two weeks to 16th August, while 46% said they fell. The resulting rounded balance of -14% was in line with expectations (-12%).

It added that retailers “were the most negative they have been about the general business situation since February 2009.”

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A balance of -11% of retailers said they felt more negative about the business situation over the next three months than they did three months ago, the most negative for 18 months.

Price inflation on the high street remains above average but +55% is the lowest balance since November 2010 (+45%). The continued rise in average prices isn’t expected to slow much in the coming month, it said.

Judith McKenna, chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel and COO of Asda, said: “As expected, August was a tough month on the high street. Sales volumes fell at a pace not seen in over a year, as consumers have continued to see their real incomes squeezed by a combination of inflation and weak wage growth.”

The CBI courts the opinion of retailers in a wide range of sectors, including grocery, clothing, homeware and furniture.

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