UK retail sales rose in the year to December, building on November’s solid performance, according to the CBI Distributive Trades Survey.
The research, involving 109 firms, of which 56 were retailers, showed that in the year to December, retail sales and orders both disappointed expectations of somewhat stronger growth. Overall, they were considered to be in line with seasonal norms. Online growth remained reasonably firm in the year to December, at a pace just below the long-run average (indicating that Black Friday and Cyber Monday were unspectacular), and is expected to slow further in the year to January.
Grocers were the most solid performers in December, but other sectors also fared well: notably, non-store retailers (e.g. mail order), hardware & DIY and “other” sales (e.g. flowers and jewellery). Alpesh Paleja, CBI Principal Economist, says: “Retailers have seen decent growth heading into the vital Christmas trading period, although it was weaker than expected. It’s clear that people are stocking up on food for their Christmas lunch, with grocers’ sales driving most of the sales growth seen in December. Notwithstanding the sales growth seen in the last couple of months, underlying trading conditions are tough for retailers. We expect the squeeze on real pay for households to last a while longer, so retailers will still face challenging conditions ahead.”