Retail sales remained resilient in the year to November, with the pace of growth expected to accelerate once again in the crucial Christmas run up, according to the CBI’s latest quarterly Distributive Trades Survey.
The survey of 130 firms also showed that employment growth remained robust, with the rise in headcount in the retail sector anticipated to be the fastest since May 2002 in the year to December.
Investment intentions for the year ahead remained positive, with respondents expecting a moderate improvement in their business situation over the next three months. Average selling prices have been under pressure, and are now rising at their slowest pace since May 2009.
Sales volumes rose particularly strongly among grocers, furniture and carpets (+74%), and hardware and DIY retailers. Growth in orders placed with suppliers was below expectations, but is expected to pick up again next month.
Barry Williams, CBI Distributive Trades Survey chairman and Asda's chief merchandising officer for food, says: “It’s no secret that it has been a demanding year for the retail industry but shopkeepers haven’t been pulling their punches when it comes to getting shoppers through their doors – borne out with the lowest essential item inflation in five years and growing online sales.
“This latest survey shows many have been winning some rounds in what has been one of the most challenging years for both the industry, and for customers.
“We’re seeing encouraging signs that pressure on family budgets is letting up, and although there is some way to go with the broader economy, there can be some optimism for retailers and customers alike as we enter the crucial run-up to Christmas. With prices under pressure and more firms adopting US-style Black Friday offers, retailers are expecting a festive boost next month and are certainly doing their best to put smiles on customers’ faces and make it easy on their pockets."