Retailers confident of Christmas boom as sales rise again

 
Julian Harris
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RETAIL sales have unexpectedly shot up in the UK, according to figures released yesterday.

In a survey conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), 55 per cent of retailers said sales were up compared to this time last year. Only 13 per cent said that sales had fallen.

And confidence is returning to the high street for the festive period, with 59 per cent expecting higher December sales than last year.

Overall, the balance figure for November sales stands at +43 per cent, up from +36 per cent for October.

The news came as John Lewis announced a 12 per cent rise in sales on the same time last year, and a 29 per cent rise compared to the same time in 2008. Last week £88m was spent in the department store.

Wholesaling also rose, according to the CBI, while the survey revealed widespread commitment to increased business investment.

However, retailers expect to employ less people than at this point last year, the survey revealed.

And even the positive figures were called into doubt. “The report appears to have overstated sales growth compared with official data,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit. The results “must be treated with some caution,” he added.

And the CBI’s Ian McCafferty, admitted that sales in 2011 may not be so strong. “Retail sales growth may lose some of its sparkle,” he said. “VAT is rising in January, and a combination of weak wage growth and high inflation is eating into household incomes.”