UK retail looks strong, fashion drives increase says latest CBI survey
It’s tough trying to make sense of UK retail data with surveys and actual stats often showing widely varying trends. The CBI Distributive Trades survey came out on Wednesday and showed its highest reading since September 2015, beating what analysts had expected.
Admittedly, this is the one survey that is often prone to the most upward or downward revisions, but given that it’s the earliest of all the reports, it’s worth paying attention to.
So what did we find out? Retail sales volumes grew at the fastest pace for two years in the 12 months to September following a decline in the previous month’s figures.
The survey of 117 respondents, including 55 retail firms, found that sales for the time of year were “slightly above seasonal norms.” Orders placed with suppliers also rose and retailers expect continued growth in sales and orders in the year to October.
Fashion, which saw a reading of +75% (meaning 75% of retailers saw growth, not that sales rose by that amount) was one of the two sectors driving overall growth (grocery was the other one). This reflects other evidence from stores such as John Lewis that has seen strong fashion sales with shoppers buying into new autumn collections enthusiastically.
But retailers of furniture and carpets (-18%) and sellers of recreational goods (-33%) reported falling sales volumes over the year to September.
Growth in e-sales volumes rose in the 12-month period and are expected to expand, albeit more slowly, next month. Internet sales volumes rose at a faster pace than in the previous month (with a reading of +54%, compared with +34% in August), and above the long-run average (+48%).
Elsewhere, wholesalers continued to report above-average growth in sales volumes, with a pick-up in the year to September and growth expected to hold steady in the month ahead.
Overall, 56% of retailers said that sales volumes were up in September compared with a year ago, while 15% said they were down, giving a balance of +42%, while +19% had been expected.
Some 37% of respondents expect sales volumes to increase next month, with 14% expecting a decrease, giving a balance of +23%.
What does this mean for the future? Well, clearly there’s no guarantee that this kind of performance will continue and the CBI figures came along with plenty of warnings about the future impact of higher inflation and lower wage growth on consumer sentiment. Looks like we’ll just have to wait and see.
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