In Brief

Hopes of happy Christmas rise as sales stop falling on high street

CBI data reports an end to six months of falling sales

High street retailers have been handed a much-needed boost as the latest data from the CBI shows a broadly unchanged level of activity in November, ending a six-month run of falling sales.

As the key Christmas shopping season starts this week, the CBI said the stabilisation reported in its survey of 52 retailers offered cautious hope for Britain’s high street.

Its data, which covers late October and the first half of November, showed strong sales at supermarkets and footwear stores. However there was a weaker showing at department stores and general clothes outlets.

The Daily Telegraph says shoppers have “dispelled pre-election worries,” giving a shot in the arm to the “battered” high street.

CBI deputy chief economist, Anna Leach, said: “Retailers are entering the festive season with a bit of hope that sales will head up, with the strongest expectations in half a year.

“Actual sales have also stabilised and have nudged above average for the time of year. And employment has stopped falling after three years of decline.”

However, she warned that: “Brexit uncertainty continues to weigh on investment plans for the year ahead” and called on the next government to “turn warm words into action”.

Howard Archer, chief economist for the EY Item Club, said the CBI data “offers retailers genuine hope that consumers are prepared to loosen their purse strings for the critical Christmas period” and suggests that a recent slump was merely “consumers taking a breather before splashing out over the festive season”.

The Retail Gazette urged caution, pointing out that the industry is “still in decline, with 41 per cent of retailers reporting a decline in sales while 38 per cent of respondents saw a rise – giving a balance of -3 for the month against the same period last year”.

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