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Retail sales boosted by grocers and online buying

Retail sales grew at a slightly faster rate than expected as grocers reported their best figures since the start of the year and online buying continued at a "robust" pace, a survey has found.

Sales volumes for the time of the year were "well above average" but are expected to slow in the year to January, the Distributive Trades Survey of 112 firms, consisting of 53 retailers, by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) found.

Some 51% of retailers said that sales volumes were up, while 16% said they were down, giving a balance of plus 35%.

A quarter of retailers (26%) said sales volume were above average for the time of year, while 5% said they were below average, giving a balance of plus 21%.

A third of retailers (32%) placed more orders with suppliers than they did a year ago, and 19% placed fewer.

Volumes of internet retail sales grew well above the long-run average, up 66%, but with the expectation that they will slow somewhat in the year to January, the poll found.

The CBI said the growth in sales was broad-based, with sales of clothing continuing to perform strongly and grocers reporting their best results since January.

Internet sales volumes continued to rise at a robust pace in the year to December, with the survey balance at its highest since November 2014.

CBI principal economist Ben Jones said: "It's encouraging to see retailers reporting another month of healthy sales growth leading up to the festive season, which rounds off a fairly solid quarter.

"While we still expect to see decent growth in the near term, the pressures on retail activity are likely to increase during 2017, as the impact of sterling's depreciation feeds through.

"With higher inflation beginning to weigh on households' purchasing power, consumption patterns are likely to shift, creating winners and losers across the retail landscape."

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