Post-christmas retail sales weakest in four years says CBI

The survey paints a depressing scene of present day high street activity and offers little hope of improvement
The survey paints a depressing scene of present day high street activity and offers little hope of improvement

Retailers have suffered the weakest post-Christmas sales growth in four years as household spending remained under pressure, a survey has found.

The volume of sales grew at a slower pace than anticipated for the third consecutive month in the year to January, according to the latest monthly CBI Distributive Trades Survey.

The survey of 107 firms found that sales for the time of year were the weakest against seasonal norms in more than four years while orders placed on suppliers also fell against expectations of growth.

Overall, 33% of retailers said sales volumes were up in January on a year ago and 21% said they were down, giving a balance of 12% that undershot the expected 17%.

But just 9% of retailers reported their volume of sales for the time of year were good while 25% said they were poor, giving a balance of minus 17% - the lowest since July 2013.

Looking ahead, retailers said they expected similar growth in sales and for orders with suppliers to be flat.

Robust growth in sales for grocers and non-store retailers offset a decline in furniture and carpets and specialist food and drink.

But online sales rose 55%, the fastest rate since this time last year and beating expectations of a marked slowdown in growth, with a similar rise expected next month.

Anna Leach, CBI head of economic intelligence, said: “Retailers have seen fairly modest sales growth this month overall, but it is online retailers who have set the pace during the January sales.

“Household spending will remain under pressure this year from higher inflation and low wage growth, which will continue to weigh on sales growth in the retail sector.”