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News : UK Economy Last Updated: Sep 27, 2011 - 3:34 PM

Volume of UK high street sales in September lower than 2010 but pace of decline has stabilised
By Finfacts Team
Sep 27, 2011 - 11:23 AM

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Chelmsford's High Street.

The volume of UK sales on the high street in September was lower than this time a year ago, but the pace of decline has stabilised, the CBI, the UK's principal employer body, said today.

According to the CBI’s latest Distributive Trades Survey, 24% of retailers saw sales volumes rise year-on-year, while 39% reported a fall. That gives a balance of -15%, the weakest since May 2010 (a balance of -18%). Although sales volumes growth was virtually unchanged on August (-14%), this was slightly weaker than expected (-7%).

The three-month moving average of sales, which smoothes out volatility in the monthly figures, also declined (-11%), at the fastest rate since August 2009 (-16%).

Sales were reported to be poor for the time of year by a balance of -30% of retailers, with the decline in volumes felt across almost all the main sub-sectors: furniture & carpets (-59%); department stores (-46%); clothing (-36%); and footwear & leather retailers (-15%) were particularly affected, while grocers’ sales were broadly flat (-3%).

Looking ahead to next month, sales volumes are expected to decline at a similar rate (-14%).

Judith McKenna, chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel and ASDA chief operating officer, said:“High street sales are sluggish but appear to be stabilising.

“However consumer confidence continues to be bruised by a combination of low wage growth, high prices and rising unemployment. Shoppers are still clamping down on discretionary spending and focused on buying the basics at the best price.

“With the consumer squeeze set to get tighter with the winter utility bills rise, we expect retailers will face a challenging October.”

The volume of orders placed upon suppliers fell at a balance of -16% of retailers, and is expected to decline at a similar rate next month (-19%). Stock levels are adequate (+16%) to meet expected demand.

Among wholesalers, 36% reported a rise in the volume of sales in September, while 23% reported a decline, giving a balance of +13%, compared with -10% in August. Motor traders saw their ninth successive month of falling sales volumes (-54%).

1. Firms responding to the Distributive Trades Survey (DTS) are responsible for a third of employment in retailing. The survey includes measures of sales activity across the distributive trades. It was first introduced in 1983 and the retail results form the UK component of the EC survey of retail trades. It is an accurate early indicator of monthly retail sales.

2. The survey was conducted between 25 August and 14 September 2011. 139 firms took part, of which 74 were retailers, 50 were wholesalers and 15 motor traders.

3. A balance is the difference between the percentage of retailers reporting an increase and those reporting a decrease.

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