Belfast Telegraph

February’s figures reveal welcome growth in retail sales

By Russell Lynch

The strongest growth in retail sales volumes for almost three years during the first half of February gave some cheer to the high street yesterday.

A 23% balance of retailers said sales for the period were ahead of a year earlier — the highest reading for the CBI business group's distributive trades survey since May 2007.

The better than expected result is a “clear improvement” on a snow-swept January, the CBI said.

Asda boss and chairman of the CBI distributive trades panel Andy Clarke said: “Sales have been stronger this month than many retailers predicted they would be, but that's not surprising as January was impacted by VAT changes and forward buys in December.”

The CBI survey found a 16% balance of retailers expect growth in March to be stronger than a year ago.

Clothing sales rose at their fastest pace since October 2006, while grocers also performed strongly, the CBI said.

Mr Clarke added: “While retailers see some growth ahead, the road to recovery through 2010 is likely to be fragile.

“Worries about the economy and upcoming pay freezes are likely to ensure that shoppers remain cautious.”

Belfast Telegraph