Retail sales beat expectations, says CBI

Retail sales volumes held broadly steady in March beating expectations of growth slowing, according to the CBI's latest monthly Distributive Trades Survey.

The survey of 125 firms consisting of 63 retailers showed that sales volumes were stable and that companies expect volumes to accelerate next month.  Meanwhile, orders placed on suppliers also exceeded expectations of a fall in March and reported moderate growth over the year.  Next month, orders are likely to remain steadfast and are expected to grow at the same rate.

Retail sales growth for the time of the year was considered to be at an average level and companies indicated that they expect them to pick up next month. 

The volume of internet sales held broadly steady in the year to March and growth is set to pick up slightly in April.

Meanwhile, grocers reported growth to be stable in the year to March and the clothing sector saw sales rising strongly for a second consecutive month. 

Elsewhere, wholesaling reported slower sales volumes growth in the year to March, while motor trades saw sales volumes rise strongly.

CBO economics director Rain Newton-Smith said: "It’s encouraging to see that sales are holding up and expectations have picked up further.  Retailers are still face challenging global conditions but will welcome the Chancellor’s Budget reforms to business rates, making it easier for them to operate on the high street. 

"Continued low levels of inflation and more jobs will continue to boost household spending, also giving a helping hand to firms."

Some 17 per cent of retailers said that sales volumes, whilst 16 per cent said they were down, giving a steady balance of +1.

Retailers reported a balance for the volume of sales for this month of +7, with 31 per cent saying they were up and 24 per cent indicating they were down.

Some 31 per cent of retailers expect sales volumes to be increase in the month to April, with 14 per cent expecting them to decrease, giving a balance of +17.

And 31 per cent of retailers placed more orders with suppliers than they did a year ago, and 27 per cent placed fewer, giving a rounded balance of +5. Orders are expected to be flat next month.

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