Solid high street growth continues, latest CBI Distributive Trades Survey shows


Retail sales volumes continued to grow solidly in the year to September, albeit at a slightly slower pace than in the previous month, according to the latest CBI Distributive Trades Survey.

It found the volume of orders placed on suppliers in the retail sector grew strongly, and broadly in line with expectations. Sales rose well above average for the time of year, while stock adequacy edged slightly lower once again.

Sales growth was broad-based across most sub-sectors. Department stores led the way, and footwear & leather and furniture & carpets retailers also performed strongly. However annual sales growth amongst grocers, the largest sub-sector, slowed significantly, while chemists’ sales volumes fell, after having reported strong annual growth in the previous month.

At the headline level, retail sales volumes are expected to rise strongly again in the year to October, but the pace of growth is set to ease further.

Elsewhere, wholesaling continued to grow robustly in the year to September, with sales growth in clothing, textiles and footwear the highest on record. Overall, volumes are expected to rise strongly again next month. In contrast, motor traders sales growth slowed markedly, and it is expected to fall in October.

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI director of economics, said: “Solid growth continues on the high street, with most sectors doing decent business and department stores performing particularly well. However, the pace of growth in the grocery sector tailed off significantly compared with the previous survey.

“Retailers are expecting sales to grow again next month, but at a steadier pace.”

Key findings:

  • 48% of retailers said sales volumes increased, while 17% said they fell, giving a balance of +31%
  • Growth was broad based across most sub-sectors, with department stores performing particularly strongly (+100%). Footwear & leather and furniture & carpet retailers also grew strongly (+61% and +81%). Growth in the grocery sector eased (+25% compared with +60% in August). Chemists’ sales volumes fell on a year ago (-13%)
  • 33% said that orders were up, while 15% said they fell, giving a balance of +19%
  • The volume of sales, 3 month moving average, was +30% – the highest since February 2013 (+33%)
  • The volume of stock in relation to expected demand was +18%, slightly lower than the previous survey (+23%)
  • 42% of retailers said they expect sales volumes to increase in the year to October, while 16% said they will fall, giving a balance of +26%


  • 60% of wholesalers said that sales volumes increased in the year to October, while 8% said they fell, giving a rounded balance of +53% – the highest since December 2012 (+53%)
  • Sales are expected to grow at a similarly robust pace in the year to October (+50%)

Motor traders:

  • 46% of motor traders said that sales volumes increased in the year to October, while 41% said they fell, giving a balance of +5%