Retail Sales Continue To Grow, CBI Study Shows

Store Owners Are Expecting Another Upturn In April


Steven Beahan, Partner | +44 (0)114 294 7868

The tide seems to have turned for Britain's retailers, as new figures released by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) confirmed that sales increased again in the year to March 2014.

Although sales growth was slightly slower than in previous months, retailers are expecting a strong April.

According to the CBI's latest Distributive Trades Survey, retail activity has risen year-on-year for four consecutive months and the later timing of Mother's Day and Easter should give store owners even more to smile about in the coming weeks.

Some 47 per cent of the 106 firms that took part in the survey expect sales volumes to rise next month, compared with just ten per cent that are anticipating a downturn.

Many retailers - especially smaller independent organisations - struggled badly during the recessionary years, as consumer confidence plummeted.

However, Barry Williams - Asda chief merchandising officer for food and chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Survey Panel - thinks these findings are promising for the high street and companies can now look ahead with "cautious hope".

"I'm very interested in two of the statistics in particular - given the rise of online shopping, it's no great surprise that internet sales volumes are still strongly increasing," he commented.

"And in terms of wholesale, the huge jump in building sales is in-line with what we're hearing about the property and building industry in general."

A net balance of +20 per cent of grocers reported an upturn in sales in the latest report, while there was also a +27 per cent upturn in clothing purchases.

Meanwhile, sales of "other goods" were up by +44 per cent, which was the fastest rate of growth since December 2010.

Internet sales increased by a net balance of +55 per cent - the sharpest rise in 11 months - and a +96 per cent upswing in building material sales highlights the scale of growth in the UK's building industry.

Expert Opinion
It is good to see that positivity is returning to the high street and also pleasing to see increased sales in a wide range of retail areas.

“Although smaller retailers suffered greatly during the recession, things are clearly picking up but it is important to remember that increased footfall and sales bring forward other issues that need to be dealt with.

“These challenges, which include taking on more staff, moving to larger premises as well as dealing with an increased number of supplier disputes, move into focus when businesses tend to grow. It is vital that small and medium sized retailer recognise this and are equipped with the best professional advice, including legal support, in order to ensure opportunities are maximised and not lost.”
Steven Beahan, Partner