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CBI figures show surprise fall in retail sales


Retail sales in February fell compared with the same period a year ago, according to a survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).


The CBI’s quarterly Distributive Trades Survey of 138 firms, including 62 retailers, showed that both volume of retail sales and orders failed to meet expectations of growth in February, following six months of ‘very buoyant’ sales.


Although sales volumes rose strongly for cultural goods and chemists, this was offset by poorer performances elsewhere, particularly among grocers and department stores.


The survey also found that employment was down on last year and – in keeping with official figures on inflation – that prices fell for the first time since May 2006.


Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Director of Economics said: ‘After a strong start to the year, retailers were disappointed by the unexpected halt in sales growth. In particular, continually heavy discounting in the grocers sector seems to be weighing on activity.


‘Looking ahead, the outlook for the retail sector is fairly positive, with the boost to household incomes from falling inflation likely to support spending. Indeed, firms remain upbeat about the businesses situation over the coming quarter.


However, as this survey shows, overall trading conditions on the high street remain challenging’.