The UK retail sales were unchanged in March, compared to the same period a year ago, according to a survey by Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
The CBI’s quarterly Distributive Trades Survey conducted over the first two weeks of March showed that 33% of retailers reported increase in sales volume in the year to March, while the same figure reported decrease.
Year-on-year volumes of sales did not see any significant improvement on last month, the resulting balance of zero hints that sales on the high street may be stabilising.
Firms, however, reported that sales were still low in March and they expect both sales volume and the volume of orders on suppliers to remain subdued over the next month.
Among retail sub-sectors, some reported an improvement in their sales volume, with others continued to perform strongly.
Furniture and carpets sub-sector recorded improvement for the second consecutive month, while grocers also saw sales growth and continued the trend of healthier figures since December 2011.
CBI Distributive Trades panel chair and Asda chief operating officer Judith McKenna said sales are stabilising and conditions have improved since the end of last year.
"However, the general retail outlook remains tough and firms expect volumes of sales and orders to fall next month.
"The squeeze on people’s pockets continues to bite, despite a recent fall in inflation, with wage growth modest and fuel costs remaining high," McKenna said.
Motor traders, who recorded their first increase in sales since December 2010, are expecting the trend to continue in the next month.
Among wholesalers, 58% reported increase in sales volume, while 24% reported decrease.
IHS Global Insight economist Howard Archer told Guardian that the CBI survey is still far from buoyant, and the suspicion remains that consumers will be cautious in their spending in the near term at least in the face of still challenging conditions.
Image: The CBI’s quarterly Distributive Trades Survey conducted over the first two weeks of March showed that 33% of retailers reported increase in sales volume in the year to March, while the same figure reported decrease. Photo: CBI