UK retail sales volumes grew at a slower pace in the year to March at 9% from 14% in February, highlighting impact of the fastest rate of inflation in a decade on the cost-of-living; sales volumes expected to grow in the year to April at 39%: CBI

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LONDON , March 24, 2022 (press release) –

Retail sales were poor for the time of year in March, according to the latest CBI quarterly Distributive Trades Survey. Sales are expected to remain below seasonal norms, but to a lesser extent, next month.

Internet sales in the year to March fell at a record pace (question first asked in August 2009). However, this likely reflects base effects in the annual comparison as non-essential retail stores were closed in March 2021.

The key survey findings included:

  • Retail sales were seen as poor for the time of year in March (-23% from +16% in February) and are expected to remain below seasonal norms, but to a lesser extent, in April (-6%). Wholesalers (+29% from +46% in February) and motor traders (+44% from +12% in February) continued to have good seasonal sales in March.
  • Retail sales volumes grew at a slower pace in the year to March (+9% from +14% in February) but are expected to grow at a much faster pace in the year to April (+39%).
  • Orders placed with suppliers were broadly flat in the year to March (+3% from +11% in February) but are expected to grow at an quick rate in the year to April (+29%).
  • Internet sales volumes in the year to March fell at the sharpest rate since the question was first asked in August 2009 (-46% from -11% in February), although this is in comparison to March 2021 when non-essential retail stores were closed. Internet sales are expected to decline at a modest pace next month (-6%).
  • Retailers reported stock levels in relation to expected sales as good in March, after having been seen as poor in February (+15% from -4%). Firms expect stock positions to improve further next month (+22%).

This survey included 93 companies, including 38 retailers. The full summary and tables of findings is attached. 

Martin Sartorius, Principal Economist at the CBI, said: 

“Retailers had a mediocre March, with sales reported as being below seasonal norms. The cost-of-living crisis is looming large across the sector, as households’ wallets are being hit by the fastest rate of inflation in decades.

“The Chancellor’s Spring Statement outlined new support for those on low incomes amid these financial challenges. But further action will be needed to galvanise consumer confidence, shore up incomes, and support spending on UK high streets in the tough months to come.”

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