The CBI’s latest quarterly Distributive Trades Survey covers the first two weeks in November and revealed that year-on-year growth in retail sales volumes continued for a third consecutive month, with +49 per cent of retailers reporting an increase in their volume of sales compared to a year ago, and +16 per cent a reduction.
The resulting balance of +33 per cent is the highest since June this year (+42 per cent) and slightly ahead of expectations (+27 per cent).
However, retailers considered the volume of sales to be below normal for the time of year (-15 per cent) and to a greater degree than expected (-4 per cent).
Year-on-year sales volumes growth was positive in nine of the thirteen individual retail sectors.
Looking ahead to December, volumes growth on the year is expected to decelerate slightly (+25 per cent), although sales are expected to move back into line with the seasonal norm (-1 per cent).
Orders placed with suppliers are expected to increase on the year (+11 per cent). Inflation is expected to continue at a similar pace (+24 per cent) and employment is expected to continue growing (+9 per cent).
Retailers remained relatively cautious about the overall outlook, despite the strength in sales volumes.
CBI head of economic analysis Anna Leach said: "This months’ survey is reason to be cheerful as we head into the festive period. Retailers across the board will be heartened by these encouraging results. The increase in employment, along with expectations for improvement in the business situation over the next quarter, point to a welcome boost to the sector.
But the fact that retailers are still reluctant to authorise new capital expenditure shows that there is some way to go before activity on the high street is back to normal."
Wholesalers meanwhile reported a six-month high in year-on-year sales volumes growth (+29 per cent), exceeding expectations for a modest decline in sales (-6 per cent).