Bad weather blamed for sales slump

Beast from the East” brings added March chill for retailers

Retail sales fell in the year to March, according to the CBI’s latest monthly Distribution Trades Survey. The survey revealed a weak month for retailers, with year-on-year sales volumes declining for the first time since October 2017.

Additionally, sales for the time of year were significantly below normal, and by the greatest extent since April 2013. The fall in retail sales was broad-based, with lower sales at department stores, furniture & carpets and clothing, the main drags on headline sales growth.

Looking ahead to next month, retailers expect sales volumes and orders placed with suppliers to grow, though at a fairly subdued pace.

CBI principal economist Ben Jones said: “Against a backdrop of stagnating household incomes and weak consumer confidence, the lengthy cold snap earlier this month has heaped added pressure on retailers.

“Freezing conditions and transport disruption caused people to avoid the high street. With many forced to work from home telecoms firms saw record internet traffic, yet on-line shopping slowed sharply given the potential for disrupted deliveries.

“As winter finally loses its grip, retailers expect a recovery in sales growth in April, albeit a fairly tepid one. While the latest wage and price data point to the first green shoots of a recovery in real household incomes, any gains are likely to be modest, with conditions for retailers likely to remain challenging for some time yet.”

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