Gloomiest high street since February 2009, claims CBI

 
Julian Harris
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A QUIET August on the high street has seen retailers slump to the gloomiest they have been since February 2009, a leading survey revealed yesterday.

Retail sales volumes this month were even lower than in August 2010, having fallen at the fastest pace for over a year.

While 31 per cent of respondents reported a rise in sales in the opening two weeks of the month, nearly half said that volumes fell. The rounded balance of minus 14 per cent was a big fall from minus five per cent in July, and minus two per cent in June.

In the first five months of the year, more retailers reported rising sales than falling sales.

“As expected, August was a tough month on the high street,” said Judith McKenna, chair of the CBI’s distributive trades panel, which conducted the survey.

“Consumers have continued to see their real incomes squeezed by a combination of inflation and weak wage growth.”

Around 65 per cent of retailers said their average prices were higher than at the same time last year. While price pressures are still being felt, the positive balance of 55 per cent was less severe than in May (63 per cent) and February (73 per cent).