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March 29, 2019

March retail sales fall 18% in fastest reduction in 17 months

March retail sales volumes have dropped by 18% this year in the fastest reduction in 17 months, marking four-months of static sales growth according to a survey by UK business organisation the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Distributive Trades.

By Deborah Williams

March retail sales volumes have dropped by 18% this year in the fastest reduction in 17 months, marking four-months of static sales growth according to a survey by UK business organisation the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Distributive Trades.

The survey collected information from 105 firms, of which 50 were retailers. While the results fell short of expectations for string growth in March, sales are expected to rise by 15% in April.

The survey also showed that supplier orders fell 13% in the year to March but are expected to rise 6% in April. CBI suggests that March year-on-year sales growth may have been distorted by the later timing of Easter this year.

Sales volumes increased 13% above average for the first time and are predicted to remain above seasonal norms at 12% in April. Year-on-year growth online sales growth decelerated in March to 21% – its lowest rate in 12 months. This is expected to rise to 31% in the year to April.

Wholesalers reported the slowest annual growth in sales volume in nine months at 13%) and they predict this will further decelerate to 16% in April.

CBI head of economic intelligence Anna Leach said: “Even accounting for Easter timing, the High Street’s poor run continues. While real wage growth is picking up, consumer confidence has been hit by escalating uncertainty over Brexit and concern over the economy’s future.

“The pain currently being felt on the High Street is yet another reason why it is so vitally important politicians agree a deal in Parliament that is acceptable to the EU and protects our economy. No-deal must be averted at all costs.”

The CBI said that the subdued March retail sales could be attributed to Brexit uncertainty and slower global growth.