01 March 2007, 19:18 PM
  • The latest CBI snapshot of the high street has revealed that retailers enjoyed a third consecutive month of year-on-year growth in sales volumes in February.

In the Distributive Trades Survey, 43% of retailers said sales volumes were higher than a year ago, while 24% reported a decline, a balance of 19%. The figure was lower than in December and January, but in line with retailers’ expectations.

The survey covers 20,000 outlets employing 40% per cent of retail jobs in the UK and was conducted in the first two weeks of February. It drew responses from 154 businesses including some of Britain’s biggest high street chains.

A balance of 16% of retailers said average selling prices were higher than a year ago. The balance was the strongest since August 2003 (+19%) and retailers expect further increases next month too.

John Longworth, executive director at Asda and chairman of the CBI’s DTS Panel, said, “The headline figures show a heartening high street performance in February as year-on-year sales volumes grew again and selling prices continued to rise. The recent rally in pricing power, while good news for retailers, will provide food for thought for interest rate watchers.

“But conditions remain tough for many on the high street with sales for the time of year struggling back to normality after a long period of below-par performance. Employment in the sector is expected to continue to fall and business investment intentions, although improved on much of 2005 and 2006, remain weak.”

Ian McCafferty, CBI chief economic advisor, said, “It is easy to understand the desire to focus solely on the monthly ups and downs of the high street and highlight survey discrepancies, particularly when different organisations use different methodologies and measure different periods of time.

“Monthly volatility can be reduced by using the three-month moving average data, and for many years the retail trends revealed by the CBI have provided an accurate foretaste of the subsequent ONS data, especially once the latter has been revised to correct any initial estimates. It is clear at the moment, whichever source of data is consulted, that retailers enjoyed a strong Christmas and New Year and are in a far healthier position than they were a year ago.”