Retail sales rose in the year to December, building further on November’s solid performance, according to the latest monthly CBI Distributive Trades Survey.
The survey of 109 firms, of which 56 were retailers, showed that in the year to December, retail sales and orders continued to rise, although it noted that both disappointed expectations of somewhat stronger growth.
They reported that sales for the time of year are in line with seasonal norms and that growth in online sales remained reasonably firm in the year to December. Yet their pace was just below the long-run average, indicating that the internet sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday were unspectacular.
Looking ahead to January, retailers expect similar growth in both sales volumes and orders.
Grocers were the main driver of retail sales growth in December, but other sectors also performed well including non-store retailers (mail order), hardware and DIY and notably the jewellery industry.
Alpesh Paleja, CBI principal economist, said: “Retailers have seen decent growth heading into the vital Christmas trading period, although it was weaker than expected.
“Notwithstanding the sales growth seen in the last couple of months, underlying trading conditions are tough for retailers. We expect the squeeze on real pay for households to last a while longer, so retailers will still face challenging conditions ahead. The government’s industrial strategy is a good start for boosting productivity and living standards, but consistency and determination is needed to make it a long-lasting success.”
[box type=”shadow” align=”” class=”” width=””]Key findings:
37% of retailers said that sales volumes were up in December on a year ago, whilst 17% said they were down, giving a balance of +20%. Growth was slower than expected (+30%), and slightly slower than in November (+26%)
27% of respondents expect sales volumes to increase next month, with 10% expecting a decrease, giving a balance of +17% 31% of retailers placed more orders with suppliers than they did a year ago, whilst 20% placed fewer orders, giving a balance of +11%. This was below expectations (+22%)
8% of retailers reported that their volume of sales for the time of year were good, whilst 11% said they were poor, giving a balance of -3% Internet sales volumes continued to expand at a healthy pace (+41) albeit slower than in the year to November (+46%).
Internet sales volumes growth is expected to ease noticeably in the year to January (+21 – the lowest since October 2009) Sales volumes expanded in hardware & DIY (+70%), grocers (+48%) and the non-store sector (+42%).
Meanwhile, sales volumes decreased in specialist food & drink (-21%), footwear & leather (-62%) and furniture & carpets (-67%).[/box] [/box]