High street sales were flat in the year to November, disappointing retailers’ expectations for the second consecutive month.Department stores, grocers and clothing shops were some of the worst hit, while hardware and DIY performed very strongly, according to the CBI’s latest Quarterly Distributive Trades Survey of 129 firms. Following lower than expected sales, the volume of orders placed with suppliers was flat this month, having held up in the year to October. But despite two disappointing months for sales, employment in the retail sector increased in the year to November. Retailers continued to expect the business situation to improve in the quarter ahead, and overall investment intentions for the year ahead improved, moving from negative to flat. “This is the second month in a row that retailers’ expectations for growth have been disappointed, perhaps due in part to the mild start to autumn,” says Barry Williams, chief merchandising officer for food at Asda and chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Survey panel. “But despite challenging conditions on the high-street, retailers remain optimistic for the Christmas period, and have taken on more employees in anticipation of a shopping rush that should add jingle to the tills.” Some 41 per cent of retailers expect sales growth to return in December, while 18 per cent expect sales to decrease – a rounded balance of +24 per cent.
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