High Street struggles in Christmas countdown

Sales on the UK high street fell for a seventh consecutive month and retailers see no respite in November.
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Responding to the CBI’s latest Distributive Trades Survey, 50 per cent of all retailers said the volume of sales in the first half of October was down on last year with 23 per cent saying they were up.

The resulting balance of -27 per cent matches September's rate of decline and was in line with expectations. No improvement is anticipated in November, with 25 per cent expecting sales to fall.

The three-month moving average of sales volumes, which smoothes out monthly volatility, remained firmly negative with a balance of -33 per cent.

Suppliers also continued to be hit by the knock-on effect of weak demand in the shops, as a balance of 36 per cent of retailers reported a year-on-year fall in the volume of orders placed upon suppliers. However, the rate of decline has eased slightly over the past two surveys and is expected to do so again in November.

Wholesalers found this month much tougher than September and 32 per cent of firms said sales volumes were down over the year to October. They predict the situation will worsen.

Andy Clarke, chairman of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel and retail director of Asda, said: "Retailers have had another tough month and while there are some winners, the majority are suffering. The sector looks set to endure a very challenging run-up to Christmas.

"We are hoping the recent drop in interest rates will cut consumers and business some slack as it feeds through to the wider economy."

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