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Retail sales rise in the build up to Christmas

Retail sales have risen in the year to December, according to the latest monthly CBI Distributive Trades Survey.

The survey of 109 firms, of which 56 were retailers, showed that in the year to December, retail sales and orders continued to rise, although both disappointed expectations of somewhat stronger growth.

Overall, sales for the time of year were considered to be in line with seasonal norms.

Growth in online sales remained reasonably firm in the year to December, at a pace just below the long-run average (indicating that the internet sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday were unspectacular), and is expected to slow further in the year to January.

Looking ahead to the next month, retailers expect similar growth in both sales volumes and orders.

Alpesh Paleja, CBI principal economist, said: “Retailers have seen decent growth heading into the vital Christmas trading period, although it was weaker than expected. It’s clear that people are stocking up on food for their Christmas lunch, with grocers’ sales driving most of the sales growth seen in December.

“Notwithstanding the sales growth seen in the last couple of months, underlying trading conditions are tough for retailers. We expect the squeeze on real pay for households to last a while longer, so retailers will still face challenging conditions ahead. The Government’s Industrial Strategy is a good start for boosting productivity and living standards, but consistency and determination is needed to make it a long-lasting success.”

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