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High street sales fall slows in February

The fall in retail sales slowed in February but job cuts in the sector rose at a record rate according to the CBI’s Distributive Trades Survey.

The CBI said that 27% of retailers said year-on-year sales volumes rose in the first half of February, while 52% said sales were down.

The results balance of -25% marked a fall in sales, but this was not as severe as the negative balance of 47% in January.

However the decline is sales is expected to worsen again in March with the resulting balance -33% among the retailers surveyed.

Sales for the time of year were reported to be poor by a net 39% of retailers. The three month moving average of sales volumes, which levels out monthly peaks and troughs, remained weak at -42%.

A balance of +38% of retailers reported increases in average selling prices over the year to February, and a slight easing in this rate is expected in March, +35%.

Confidence remained low with 26% of retailers surveyed expecting conditions to worsen over the next three months. A balance of 49% of retailers said they had cut their headcount.

CBI Distributive Trades Panel and chief operating officer of Asda Andy Clarke said: “February was another tough month and sadly many retailers are cutting jobs as shoppers stay away and the recession deepens. But conditions were not quite as harsh as they were last month and in the run up to Christmas.”

“Supermarkets and footwear and leather shops enjoyed some pretty strong growth, proving that, as the flight to the value end of the market continues, those with the right offering can fare well during these tough times.”

“March looks similarly testing but we hope that, as the year goes on, lower interest rates and falling inflation will encourage a pick up in spending.”

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