High Street sales strengthen in early November

The volume of retail sales was higher in November than a year ago, for the fifth consecutive month.
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The CBI’s latest quarterly Distributive Trades survey revealed that 55 per cent of retailers saw the volume of sales rise in the two weeks to November 10th, while 13 per cent said they fell.

The resulting rounded balance of a 43 per cent increase was in line with expectations, and an improvement on October’s balance of + 36 per cent. However, six per cent of retailers said sales in November were below average for the time of year.

The three-monthly moving average of sales volumes, which smoothes out monthly peaks and troughs, edged higher to a balance of +43 per cent.

Looking ahead to the pre-Christmas period, 45 per cent of retailers expect strong sales volume growth to continue in December, and 11 per cent of retailers expect the overall business situation to improve over the next quarter.

After sharp cuts to investment spending during 2008-2009, for a second quarter running, retailers are planning to invest more over the next 12 months, compared to last year, with an increase of 28 per cent.

Ian McCafferty, CBI chief economic adviser, said: “High Street sales growth held up well in November, and retailers are hopeful that the run-up to Christmas will be just as strong.

“However, looking into the New Year, retail sales growth may lose some of its sparkle, as consumers rein in spending after Christmas.

“Confidence remains fragile, VAT is rising in January, and a combination of weak wage growth and high inflation is eating into household incomes.”

Price inflation remains high with 51 per cent of retailers saying average selling prices rose on a year ago, and six per cent saying they fell. Numbers employed in the retail sector fell only slightly in the year to November by five per cent.

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