Customer Behaviour

Retailers have seen sales exceed expectations to grow at their fastest pace since September 2015 as consumer confidence remains buoyant, figures show.

The CBI Distributive Trades Survey of 112 firms, of which 57 were retailers, also showed that orders placed on suppliers has risen at the strongest rate for a year and a half.

Some 59% of retailers said sales volumes were up in April on a year ago while 21% said they were down, giving a balance of positive 38% – the highest figure since September 2015’s 49%.

The CBI’s figures contrast sharply with those from the Office for National Statistics last week, showing retail sales have recorded their biggest fall for seven years in the three months to March as rising living costs ate into household spending.

The ONS said sales fell by 1.4% over the three-month period, while also sinking well below expectations to drop by 1.8% on the month to March.

The CBI said April’s strong figures were better than expected, especially considering that the survey did not cover the peak shopping period over Easter.

CBI principal economist Ben Jones said: “The warm weather in early April might go some way to explaining the uptick, with sales by clothing shops and grocers driving overall growth.

“However, retailers are still cautious over the outlook, expecting slower growth over the year to May, as higher inflation eats into household spending.

“With price competition remaining fierce and rising costs squeezing margins, retailers face mounting pressures in the months ahead.”

The CBI said retailers expected sales growth to slow next month, with the index falling back to positive 16.

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