UK retailers recorded flat sales volumes in the year to March, ending six consecutive months of decelerating growth. Despite this, retailers remain broadly upbeat about sales growth in April, expecting it to start to gradually improve, results from the latest poll of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) showed.
Last month, retail sales also proved lower than expected and well below the average volumes for this time of the year.
Out of the 118 firms polled, including 69 retailers, 26% said that their sales volumes increased versus the previous year and the same percentage reported a decline. This translated into a balance of 0%, the smallest rate since August 2012 when it was -3%. By comparison, the market had built up high expectations for a positive growth of 9%. CBI also found that 17% of firms enjoyed good sales volumes for this time of year, while 37% suffered poor volumes.
Grocery shops in particular saw zero sales improvement in the year to March, but the lobbying group said that this was better than in recent history and follows a steep drop of 26% in February. Sales by clothing and footwear and leather retailers dipped by a respective 53% and 32%, which was counterbalanced by a solid sales growth in other segments, including furniture and carpets (82%) and online retailers (46%).
Retailers hope that this month, marketing conditions will improve, with 37% of those polled projecting an increase against 22% predicting a decline.