Christmas sales growth fizzles out in January

 
Tim Wallace
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RETAIL sales growth slowed this month, a leading business survey showed yesterday, although the figures were still slightly better than downbeat shops had feared.

For the first two weeks of the year 41 per cent of retailers reported rising sales compared with the same period of last year, the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) study found.

At the same time 24 per cent saw sales drop, leaving a positive net balance of 17 per cent. That is down on the 19 per cent in December and 33 per cent in November, showing a slowdown in shops’ fortunes.

But despite the slower pace, sales still rose to almost exactly the level deemed normal for the time of year – an improvement on the below-average figures recorded for the whole of 2012. By sector, non-store sales – which include online and mail-order – rose most strongly, with a net balance of 70 per cent of retailers reporting growth.

Furniture and carpets retailers followed closely with a balance of 64 per cent seeing sales rise, and grocers with a balance of 43 per cent. Chemists performed worst, with a net balance of 56 per cent reporting falling sales.

“The problem that retailers face is that consumers’ purchasing power has come under some renewed pressure from a move back up in inflation and muted earnings growth,” said IHS Global Insight’s Howard Archer.

“Still strong employment growth offers hope for consumer spending, but it is questionable whether this can continue.”