High Street Sales Rise Again

The survey of 120 firms showed that sales have grown for the ninth consecutive month, while retailers’ investment intentions for the year ahead were at their highest since November 2010.

Sales volumes were strong once again among grocers, clothing and furniture & carpet retailers, but specialist food & drink recorded a fall in sales volumes for the second consecutive month. Sales were broadly in line for the time of year, while orders picked up, consistent with expectations, and firms anticipate they will strengthen again in the next month.

Internet sales volumes among retailers maintained robust growth in the year to February, although they are expected to slow somewhat next month.

Employment fell on a year ago for the first time in a year, with a further small fall expected next month. But retailers envisage their business situation improving over the next quarter. Meanwhile, growth in retail sales in the year to March is expected to moderate from this month’s strong pace, but should remain robust nonetheless.

Barry Williams, Asda Chief Merchandising Officer for Food, and Chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Survey Panel said:

“The high streets have kicked on once again this month, with growth the strongest since the summer of 2012.

“There is growth across many sectors, including grocers and clothing outlets, while investment intentions are at their highest for more than three years. Although we are by no means seeing a universally confident shopper, the positive indicators have perhaps given some people the urge to spend.

“Overall sales have been remarkably resilient in the face of disruption from the exceptional weather across the UK, which has badly affected many families and businesses.”

Wholesalers recorded solid growth in sales volumes in the year to February, while their investment intentions for the year ahead were at a record high. Motor traders saw strong sales growth, while optimism over the business situation for the quarter ahead was at its highest since 1994.