Responding to the organisation’s latest Distributive Trades Survey, only 21 per cent of retailers reported sales in the first half of September were up on last year, while 48 per cent said they were down.
The resulting balance of -27 per cent marks a third consecutive month of sharply contracting sales, but is better than firms had feared and is an improvement on the survey record low in August when the figure was -46 per cent. Nevertheless, the outlook for October remains very weak at -30 per cent.
The three-month moving average of sales volumes continued on its downward trend to a balance of -36 per cent.
A balance of nearly half of all firms said their volume of sales for the time of year was poor and a similar balance of 44 per cent are expecting a tough time next month.
Slow demand on the high street has had a knock-on effect on the volume of orders made with suppliers. A balance of 39 per cent of retailers reported a year-on-year fall in order volumes, a slight improvement on August, which was down by 56 per cent. Stock levels were described as more than adequate to meet expected demand by a net 20% of firms.
Looking at individual sectors, the supermarkets continued to weather the economic slowdown, and a balance of 37 per cent reported sales growth. All the other sectors saw a fall in sales compared to a year ago.
Andy Clarke, chairman of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel and retail director of Asda, said:
"Shoppers are increasingly focusing on price as the economy continues to slow and household budgets get tighter. There has been a marked migration to the value end of the market, and many have cut back on luxuries, although the drop in petrol prices should give a bit more breathing space.”
John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general said:
“Sadly, there has been no Indian summer after the sales washout of August and the retail outlook for early autumn remains bleak. Consumers are feeling the brunt of the economic slowdown as the UK endures what is likely to be a short and mild recession.
“As inflationary pressures ease over the next few months, the Bank of England should have some leeway to lower interest rates, and a 0.5 per cent cut in November would provide some welcome relief to consumers and businesses.”