The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has released figures that show high street retailers are cutting staff numbers as sales volumes fall for the sixth consecutive month.
It has now warned that retailers expect another decline in December and have been reducing their headcount at the fastest rate in two years.
The CBI’s latest quarterly Distributive Trades Survey revealed that 26% of retailers saw the volume of sales rise in the 11 months to November, while 44% said they fell. The resulting rounded balance of -19% was weaker than expected and represents the fastest decline in sales since March 2009.
Sales volumes were considered below average for the time of year, with a balance of -39%, the weakest figure since March 2009.
The volume of orders placed with suppliers fell in November by 25% and orders are set to continue falling next month, with predictions of an 18% drop.
Employment across the retail sector has fallen by 27% already this year, the fastest rate since November 2009. The survey shows that 13% of retailers increased their headcount, while 40% reduced numbers, giving a balance of -27%.
Ian McCafferty, CBI chief economic adviser, said: “Retailers remain hard-pressed, even as we get closer to Christmas. The relatively mild weather this autumn has hit clothing stores particularly hard, and retail sales are down year-on-year for the sixth month in a row.
“Retailers may be hoping that shoppers will loosen their purse strings in the run up to Christmas, but consumers are likely to remain cautious about spending given the uncertain economic outlook.”
The CBI has said that retailers are scaling back their investment plans for the coming 12 months, with around 8% of retailers saying they feel “more negative” about the coming three months of business, than the past three.