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Retail sales growth picks up in March

Retail sales growth picked up in March but the underlying trend remains subdued, according to the CBI.

A balance of 22% of retailer said fashion sales grew during the month, however that growth slowed month on month when a balance of 34% of retailers said that sales had risen.

42% of retailers across all sectors said that they saw a rise in sales volumes in March while 27% experienced a fall during the month, according to CBI’s latest Distributive Trades Survey. The balance of +15% is an improvement on February’s +6% and exceeded retailers’ expectations of zero growth for the month.

However, on a three-month basis, the average +19% balance is the lowest rate for eight months.

Retailers considered trading poor for the time of year, with 40% reporting sales as poor compared to 16% which thought sales were good. The -24% balance is the lowest figure since August 2009.

Little improvement in the pace of sales growth is anticipated next month, with +18% of retailers expecting growth, compared with the +15% recorded this month.

For the first time in nine months orders placed by retailers with suppliers were down, with a - 8% balance.

CBI chief economic adviser Ian McCafferty said: “Sales growth picked up slightly for retailers compared with last month, but look beneath the surface and conditions remain tough on the high street.”

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