Retail sales exceed expectations in January

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Retail sales growth was broadly steady over the year to January, beating retailers’ expectations for a slight slowdown, according to the CBI’s latest monthly Distributive Trends Survey.

In a study of 126 companies, 41% of retailers said sales volumes were up in January on a year ago, whilst 25% said they were down, giving a balance of +16%.

This was slightly lower than the previous month (+19%), but well above expectations of +9%.

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While 30% of retailers reported sales volumes to be good for the time of the year, orders placed upon suppliers fell over the 12 months at the fastest pace since May 2013.

The survey shows that 20% of retailers placed more orders with suppliers than they did a year ago, but 32% placed fewer, giving a balance of -13%. Orders are set to fall again next month (-10%).

CBI director of Economics, Rain Newton-Smith, said: “Retailers have had a steady start to the year through the January sales period.

“However, with competition remaining fierce and persistent price deflation in the sector, it’s not surprising the outlook for retailers in February looks subdued. Mild weather looks to have hit clothing sales, but current low oil prices continue to support consumer spending,” he added.

“Retailers will be looking to the Budget for decisive action to reform the cumbersome and outdated business rate system.”

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