Retail sales plunge in May, CBI survey shows

By Sean Farrell

Date: Friday 24 May 2019

Retail sales plunge in May, CBI survey shows

(Sharecast News) - Retail sales fell in May at the fastest pace for 19 months as investment intentions hit a record low, the Confederation of British Industry said.
The business lobby's distributive trades survey found 26% of respondents reported sales volumes up on a year ago while 53% said they were down. The balance of -27 was the lowest since November 2017 and well below expectations of +6.

Sales for the time of year were the lowest since March 2009 when the UK was in recession, the CBI said, though trading is expected to pick up.

Investment intentions for the year ahead slumped from -33 to -65 - the lowest figure in the survey's 36-year history. Employment fell for the 10th straight quarter at the fastest pace since August 2009.

Retailers expect their overall business situation to remain broadly stable, the survey of 90 businesses, including 42 retailers, found.

Anna Leach, the CBI's deputy chief economist, said: "This month's survey paints a dismal picture of business conditions for retailers, who face a grim combination of tough trading conditions, Brexit uncertainty and a burdensome outdated business rates regime, which have collectively pushed investment intentions to a record low."

Retailers are battling to increase sales as consumers go online, alter their spending habits and grow wary as the political impasse over Brexit continues. But Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, was doubtful about the extent of the slowdown in the CBI's survey, noting the small sample.

"We're sceptical of the CBI survey's suggestion that consumers suddenly slammed the brakes on in May," Tombs said. "A dip in retail sales in May certainty is plausible, as the boost from warmer-than-usual weather to clothing sales unwinds, but we strongly doubt that the sky has fallen in."


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