UK retail sales volumes in February were above seasonal norms as COVID-19 restrictions eased, end of work-from-home guidance; selling prices continued to grow at a rapid pace, with slight acceleration expected in the coming months: CBI

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LONDON , February 24, 2022 (press release) –

Retail sales volumes were above seasonal norms in February, as shoppers returned to the high streets in the wake of Omicron. That’s according to the latest CBI quarterly Distributive Trades Survey. Selling prices continued to grow at a rapid pace in the year to February, however, with a slight acceleration expected in the coming month. 

The key findings included: 

  • Retail sales volumes were above seasonal norms in February (+16%), following a weaker-than-normal January (-23%). Seasonal sales are expected to be average in March (-1%).
  • Retail selling prices continued to grow rapidly in the year to February (+75% from +77% in November) with a slight acceleration expected next month (+81%).  
  • Internet sales declined in the year to February (-11% from -2% in January). This is only the second time in survey history that internet sales have fallen (question was first asked in August 2009). Sales are expected to be broadly flat next month (-2%). 
  • Retail stocks in relation to expected sales were seen as slightly poor, despite improving on last month (-4% from -11% in January). Expectations are for stock positions to strengthen slightly next month (+4%). 
  • Employment growth slowed in the year to February (+8% from +19% in November). Headcounts are expected to grow at a similar pace next month (+5%). 
  • Investment intentions for the next 12 months (compared to the last 12) remain strong, to a broadly similar degree to last quarter (+30% from +31% in November).   

This survey included 115 companies, including 46 retailers.  

Martin Sartorius, Principal Economist at the CBI, said: 

“The easing of COVID-19 restrictions – including the end of work-from-home guidance – has, unsurprisingly, encouraged shoppers to return to the high streets. 

“There are other challenges facing retailers, however. Conflict in Ukraine means energy prices and transport costs will rise further, adding more pressure on retailers’ operating costs and biting into households’ spending power.” 

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