British retail sales climb to a 15-month high

Julian Harris
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THE BRITISH retail sector’s recovery strengthened at the start of this month, with a leading industry survey pointing to the fastest sales growth since June last year.

Nearly half – 46 per cent – of shops surveyed by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said that sales were higher than at the same point last year, while only 12 per cent reported a lower volume of sales.

The resulting balance of plus 34 was up from plus 27 in August and the highest score for 15 months.

As recently as June the CBI survey’s top line was reflecting effectively flat sales, yet retail prospects have picked up in the three months since.

And retailers are optimistic about the near future. Four in 10 expect sales to be higher next month than in October last year, while only nine per cent say their sales will fall.

“Retail sales have grown for the third month running, and these strong figures will no doubt provide a fillip for the high street,” said Richard Lowe, Barclays’ head of retail and wholesale.

“Retailers will now be hoping for more seasonal weather to help sales of new autumn/winter collections and for consumer confidence to tick up as we head towards the crucial Christmas trading period.”

Wholesalers are also faring well, according to the CBI research, posting their fastest sales growth in three months. Half of all surveyed wholesalers said sales were up on a year earlier, while only one in 10 said sales were down. The resulting net balance of plus 40 was the second highest score so far this year, after the plus 45 recorded in June.

• Online retailing remains in a boom era according to figures released by Visa Europe yesterday. The firm said that the amount spent with Visa cards online at UK merchants hit £52bn in the first six months of 2013 – more than the total for the whole of 2009. A quarter of spending at UK sellers on Visa cards is now happening online, the company said.