Belfast Telegraph

Retail sales strongest for a year

High street sales have grown at their fastest pace for more than a year in September, figures from the CBI showed today in a further sign of recovery in the retail sector.

The business group's survey found 46% of firms reported sales volumes up on a year ago while 12% said they were down, giving a positive balance of 34% which was the strongest since June 2012 - and surpassing expectations.

Rises were most marked among furniture and carpet retailers, department stores and recreational goods, while grocers also saw an increase. Motor traders saw growth but it was slower than in the previous month.

Retail sales volumes are expected to grow at a similar pace next month, with a balance of 31%, according to the figures.

The results of the Distributive Trades Survey, which includes responses from 61 retail firms, will fuel hopes that last week's official figures showing a sales dip in August were a blip.

Barry Williams, Asda's chief merchandising officer for food and chair of the survey panel, said: "It's encouraging to see the high street on the road to recovery.

"But the retail sector is not out of the woods yet, with consumer confidence still fragile despite the rise in spending."

The data come after figures earlier this week showed a slowdown in the rate of town centre shop closures to 18 a day.

Samuel Tombs of consultancy Capital Economics said the figures provided reassurance after August's drop in the official measure of retail sales.

He said: "For now, rising consumer confidence and employment seem to be offsetting the adverse impact of further falls in consumers' real pay on retail spending."