Belfast Telegraph

High street sales decline at fastest rate since January 2012

Summer high street sales fell at their fastest pace in more than four years this month, figures show.

Weak consumer confidence was the likely reason for the drop in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum, but the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned against reading "too much too soon".

The CBI's latest monthly Distributive Trades Survey found 24% of retailers said that sales volumes were up in July compared with a year earlier, while 38% said they were down, giving a rounded balance of -14%.

It found sales volumes declined more rapidly than at any time since January 2012, and companies expect a decline at a broadly similar pace next month.

Sales by grocers and furniture and carpets stores were the main drivers of the drop in overall volumes, but non-specialised department stores and footwear and leather goods retailers reported higher volumes.

Orders placed on suppliers dropped at the quickest pace since March 2009 and are expected to fall further in August.

CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith said: "While conditions in the retail sector have weakened, we should be careful about reading too much too soon, as consumers were likely to err on the side of caution in the immediate period following a vote to leave the EU.

"Current low levels of inflation and high overall employment should support consumer spending in the near term, although the impact of lower sterling is likely to feed through to higher inflation over time.

"What businesses and consumers need now is calm and decisive leadership, a clear timetable and a plan for negotiating the UK's future outside the EU to restore confidence."