Retail sales confidence rises

Retail sales grew in the year to February, beating expectations, and at the fastest pace since June 2012, according to the CBI’s latest quarterly Distributive Trades Survey.

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 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.

CBI distributive trades survey's sales balance rose to +37, its highest level since June 2012, from +14 in January.

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, the CBI said.

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."

In garden centres, retailers said February had been depressed after a stronger January, which was about 15 per cent up on January 2013.

Coollings said it was a little ahead for 2014 so far, while Alton Garden Centre said plant sales were slow but were picking up from last weekend after the rains stopped.

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