Retail sales volumes grew at a steady pace in the year to March, and slightly faster than expected, according to the CBI’s latest monthly Distributive Trades Survey.
The survey of 116 firms, consisting of 65 retailers, showed that growth in the volumes of sales was similar to that seen in February, but is set to accelerate in the year to April.
Sales for the time of year were considered to be slightly below seasonal norms. Orders placed on suppliers fell again over the year, but are set to rise somewhat next month.
The moderate increase in headline retail sales volumes was driven by the grocery and clothing sectors. Year-on-year growth in internet sales volumes picked up to broadly in line with the long-run average. Internet sales volumes are expected to grow at broadly similar pace in the year to April.
Anna Leach, CBI head of economic intelligence, said: “It’s encouraging to see that sales volumes growth is holding up and expectations have strengthened.
“However, retailers continue to be squeezed by rising cost pressures on the one hand, and intense competition on the other, which will limit their ability to raise prices. With household spending growth set to slow as inflation rises, retailers seem likely to remain under pressure through this year.”
- 44% of retailers said that sales volumes were up on a year ago, whilst 35% said they were down, giving a balance of +9%
- 24% of retailers said the volume of sales were good for the time of year, with 31% saying they were poor, giving a balance of -6% – the lowest survey balance since July 2016
- 30% of retailers placed more orders with suppliers than they did a year ago, and 40% placed fewer, giving a balance of -10%
- 33% of retailers expect the volume of orders placed on suppliers to increase in the year to April, with 28% expecting them to decrease, giving a balance of +5%
- Sales volumes grew at a healthy pace among clothing retailers (+57%), Hardware & DIY retailers (+59%) and the non-store sector (+58%), while growth improved among grocers (+19% from 0)
- Growth in internet sales volumes pick up in the year to March (+49% from +42%), and is broadly in line with the long-run average (48%). Growth is set to continue at a similar pace in the year to April (+50%).
- 54% of wholesalers reported sales volumes to be up on last year and 11% said they were down, giving a balance of +43%.
- 79% of motor traders reported that sales volumes were up on a year ago, while 5% said they were down, giving a balance of +74%. Sales volumes growth is expected to slow in the year to April (+31%).