Nov 26, 2019
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UK retail sales slide stops in November, but clothing still falls -- CBI report

Nov 26, 2019

When a report headline says “Retail sales cease their decline in November”, it might not seem like the most exciting news in the world. But in volatile times such as these, it came as a welcome relief to the under-pressure UK retail sector.

Fashion stores may not have benefited from the better shopping environment this month

The release came from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), with its monthly report showing that UK stores reported "broadly unchanged" sales volumes in November after six consecutive months of declining year-on-year sales. And retailers expect growth to return in December, with their strongest expectations in seven months.

But before we get carried away, it has to be noted that grocers made the greatest positive contribution to the headline figure this month, with a negative contribution from clothing. Meanwhile, internet sales growth “eased to the slowest pace seen since June and is expected to remain at this below-average pace next month”.

Looking at the report’s details, 38% of respondents said sales volumes were up on a year ago in November, while 41% said they were down, giving a balance of -3% — as mentioned, the highest balance in seven months.

And 44% of retailers expect sales volumes to increase in the year to December with 23% expecting a fall.

Anna Leach, CBI Deputy Chief Economist said: “Retailers are entering the festive season with a bit of hope that sales will head up, with the strongest expectations in half a year. Actual sales have also stabilised and have nudged above average for the time of year. And employment has stopped falling after three years of decline. But Brexit uncertainty continues to weigh on investment plans for the year ahead, which remain weak.  

“As the election period gets into full swing, retailers will welcome the prominence being given to fixing the broken business rates system. But it will be up to the next government to turn warm words into action.”

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