Belfast Telegraph

Retail sector slumps as consumers stick to buying basics

By Jamie Grierson

The floundering retail sector saw its worst performance in nearly 18 months, a key survey has shown, as shoppers "focused on buying the basics at the best price".

The CBI Distributive Trades Survey in September recorded its weakest year-on-year reading for retail sales volumes since May last year.

The decline in volumes was felt across all the main sub-sectors, including furniture and carpets, department stores and clothing.

The survey is likely to fuel concerns for overall economic growth in the third quarter following similarly downbeat manufacturing data from the Office for National Statistics and Markit Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI).

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said the survey "fuels concern that already reluctant shoppers will hold back further on their spending".

The CBI said 24% of retailers saw sales volumes rise year-on-year in September, while 39% reported a fall, with the resulting balance of minus 15% indicating a drop in activity.

The weak survey will increase pressure on the Bank of England to increase quantitative easing, as consumer spending plays a key role in the wider economy.