Retailers report best February sales in two years

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High street overcomes gloomy January sales according to CBI report.

A disappointing January on the high street has given way to a retail bounce in February, according to research released today by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

In its Distributive Trades Survey, retailers were asked how their sales volumes in early February compared against the same period in 2009.

23 percent said they were lower, while 46 percent said they were up. The resulting balance of +23 percent is a clear improvement on January, which registered -8% and is the strongest year-on-year increase in sales since May 2007.

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It also exceeded the expectation of retailers that collectively expected little change in sales volumes on a year ago.

A balance of +16 percent of retailers predict that there will be further year-on-year growth next month.

High street sales also pulled through demand for suppliers with 12 percent more retailers saying their orders were up than those saying they were down in February.

Retail prices grew strongly in February (a balance of 40 percent), most likely reflecting the increase in VAT at the start of this year. Prices are expected to rise at a similar pace next month by the majority of those surveyed.

Andy Clarke, chairman of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel, and CEO of Asda, warns that any recovery on the high street is far from secure.

“While retailers see some growth ahead, the road to recovery through 2010 is likely to be fragile. Worries about the economy and upcoming pay freezes are likely to ensure that shoppers remain cautious,” he said.

Some retail sectors performed better than others. Clothing sales rose at their fastest pace since October 2006, while grocers also had a strong month. Retailers of durable household goods, and furniture & carpets posted robust growth after sales falls in January. However, sales in the hardware, china & DIY sector continued to fall.

Jewellers contacted by Professional Jeweller agreed that February has been strong. Dinny Hall had a record month with sales at some of its stores up by 12 percent. Argenteus reported an increase in the low single digits.

Fraser Hart Westfield store manager Anthony Fuller said the Valentine’s trading period was “a lot better than last year”.

 

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