Belfast Telegraph

Retail sales fall as grocers report 'disappointing' start to year, figures show

Retail sales have taken an unexpected dip as grocers saw volumes going through the till fall at the fastest pace since August 2004, figures show.

A "modest" fall in sales overall followed robust increases over the final quarter of last year, but volumes are set to grow in the year to February, according to the CBI's latest monthly Distributive Trades Survey of 113 firms.

Some 23% of retailers said that sales volumes were up while 32% said they were down, giving a rounded balance of minus 8%.

Sales volumes were down 65% among grocers, but were also flat in a number of sectors including specialist food and drink, footwear and furniture.

But healthy growth was reported elsewhere, particularly within the clothing sector, which saw a 53% increase in sales volumes, and department stores, up 52%.

The CBI said the moderate decline in retail sales volumes was driven by grocers, where sales fell at the fastest pace since August 2004.

But continually healthy growth was reported elsewhere, particularly among clothing retailers and department stores.

Growth in internet sales volumes slowed slightly in the year to January.

Anna Leach, CBI head of surveys and economic analysis, said: "Grocers have reported a disappointing start to the year, but other sectors appear to have performed better.

"This month's decline was mostly driven by falling food sales and seems set to be short-lived, with retailers expecting sales to return next month.

"Headwinds are on the horizon, as past falls in sterling are expected to push up inflation over the course of this year, which will be a real squeeze on household incomes.

"Retailers will be under the cosh for some time yet."