Latest data on the state of the High Street shows that trading increased in March compared with a year ago, and at a faster rate than last month, but sales growth remains subdued.
The Confederation of British Industry’s latest Distributive Trades Survey, which is conducted between 28th February and 16th March, shows that 42% of retailers saw their volume of sales rise in the year to March, while 27% said they fell.
The resulting balance of +15% exceeded retailers’ expectations of zero growth, according to the CBI, which represents more than 240,000 businesses.
Almost a fifth of retailers said they anticipated little change in the pace of sales growth during April.
Sales in March were considered weak for the time of year, with 16% of retailers reporting sales as good, and 40% saying they were poor.
At +19%, the three-month moving average of volume of sales growth was at its lowest rate in eight months, considerably down on February’s figure of +33%. If expectations are realised, it will decline further next month (+14%).
The figures for March also showed that, for the first time in nine months, orders placed by retailers with suppliers were down (a balance of -8%) when compared with the previous year.
“Sales growth picked up slightly for retailers compared with last month, but look beneath the surface and conditions remain tough on the high street,” said Ian McCafferty, the CBI’s chief economic adviser.
“With inflation edging higher and earnings growth only modest, household budgets are under increasing pressure. Consumer demand will remain weak in the coming months,” he added.