UK retail boost not expected to last, CBI warns

Retail sales volumes in the UK have grown for the first time in more than half a year, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), although they remain weak in a historical context.

The group’s latest Distributive Trades Survey shows a net 9% of retailers have seen sales rise on the levels seen one year ago. This is better than expected and the first time growth has been reported since May.

However, retailers maintain that sales remain below their usual levels, with a balance of 16% saying volumes are worse than their long-run average.

Furthermore, retailers do not expect the “modest” gains of December to last into the new year and predict volumes to fall once more in January.

Judith McKenna, chair of the CBI distributive trades panel, says: “Early discounting helped retailers add a little extra sparkle to their sales in December, although the reprieve appears to only be temporary as they don’t expect sales to continue to grow into January.

“Consumers are continuing to hold off on purchasing big ticket items, including durable household goods, preferring to use their hard-earned cash to stock up for Christmas dinner and all important gifts for the family.”

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