Dark days ahead as retailer gloom deepens, says CBI survey
Black Friday’s better-than-expected sales boost may have grabbed most of the headlines in recent days, but overall, the retail outlook has “darkened in November”. That's according to the latest CBI distributive trades survey.
The regular monthly Confederation of British Industry retail report said that “retailers saw their sales volumes fall at a firm pace in the year to November”. And “firms anticipate little festive cheer in December, with a similar rate of decline expected next month”.
Retailers also remain pessimistic about their business prospects for the next three months, “which is reflected in declining employment numbers and deteriorating investment intentions”.
The main points of the report are that retail sales declined in the year to November. The CBI reported a figure of -19% compared to +18% in October, with -21% expected for December. That doesn’t mean actual sales fell 19% in November after jumping 18% in October. The figures show the weighted difference between the percentage of retailers reporting an increase and those reporting a decrease so more retailers saw declining sales this time.
Sales volumes were seen as average for the time of year (+3% of retailers from +20% in October) and are expected to remain broadly in line with seasonal norms in December (-1%).
And online retail sales contracted in the year to November (-5% from -23% in October). Internet sales have now been flat or falling for 13 months, and an accelerated contraction (-26%) is expected next month.
Employment growth in retail also slumped in the year to November (-17% from +13% in August) – the first decline in headcount since August 2021. A further fall (-12%) is anticipated next month.
The CBI’s Principal Economist, Martin Sartorius, said: “It’s not surprising that retailers are feeling the chill as the UK continues to be buffeted by economic headwinds. Sales volumes fell at a firm pace in the year to November, and retailers remain notably downbeat about their future business prospects. This pessimism is reflected in investment intentions worsening to the greatest extent since May 2020.
“Retailers and wholesalers contribute £352 billion to the UK economy and support a fifth of the nation’s jobs – yet these survey results underline what a tough time it is for the sector. The Chancellor’s decision to back CBI calls for a freeze in businesses rates next April will provide some welcome relief, but retailers are also looking for longer-term measures from Government that can restore momentum to the UK economy.”
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