Retail sales grew strongly in the year to August with the pace of growth expected to accelerate again in the month ahead, according to the CBI’s latest quarterly Distributive Trades Survey.

The survey of 142 firms also showed that sales were broadly average for the time of year, with retailers more optimistic about their business situation for the next quarter than at any time since May 2002.

Sales volumes rose particularly strongly among grocers, chemists and furniture and carpet retailers, but specialist food and drink retailers recorded a fall in sales volumes. Orders placed with suppliers picked up which had been anticipated by firms, and numbers employed also grew in line with expectations, at the fastest pace since November 2013.

Growth in internet sales volumes also picked up in the year to August, and is expected to strengthen further next month.

Katja Hall, CBI deputy director-general, says: “The high streets have been bustling with shoppers this summer and it is good to see firms so optimistic about their business prospects for the next three months - higher than at any time since 2002. Retailers looking forward to stronger growth in September are keeping their shelves well-stocked in anticipation.”

Wholesalers also saw strong rises in sales and employment on a year ago.

Key findings:
·       51% of respondents reported that sales volumes were up on a year ago, while 14% said they were down, giving a balance of +37%, matching expectations (+36%)

·       Retailers expect sales volumes to grow at an even more robust pace next month (+42%), with 49% expecting them to rise and 7% to fall

·       There was a broad-based increase in sales across many sub-sectors, with furniture & carpets up 63%.

·       Retailers expect their overall business situation to improve over the next three months (+25%), the highest figure since May 2002 (+33%).

·       19% of retailers said that sales volumes were above average for the time of year, while 20% said they were below average, giving a balance of -1%

·       Stocks remained more than adequate relative to expected demand (+23%), and are expected to remain more than sufficient in September (+24%)

·       28% placed more orders with suppliers than they did a year ago and 19% placed fewer, with the resulting rounded balance of +10% close to expectations (+13%)

·       The volume of internet sales rose strongly (+47%) and is expected to grow at an even faster pace next month (+62%)

·       Employment grew on a year ago (+12%), rising at the fastest rate since November 2013 (+20%).

·       Investment intentions for the year ahead strengthened with a balance of +14%.

.      63% of wholesalers reported sales volumes to be up on last year and 13% said they were down, giving a balance of +50%, the highest since December 2012 (+53%). Headcount rose at its fastest (+33%) since November 2006 (+50%).