High street sales were flat in the year to November, dashing retailers’ hopes for the second consecutive month, according to the CBI.
The Quarterly Distributive Goods Survey said department stores, grocers and fashion retailers were some of the worst hit, while DIY and hardware retailers performed “very strongly”.
CBI Distributive Trades Survey Panel chair and Asda chief merchandising officer for food Barry Williams said: “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.
“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.”
Ahead of the busy festive period some 20% of retailers surveyed said employment had increased in the three months to November, and 15% said employment is expected to jump again next month.
In addition, 14% of firms expect their business situation to improve in the next quarter which includes the key Christmas trading period and overall investment intentions for the year ahead improved, moving from negative to flat.
Barclays head of retail and wholesale Richard Lowe said: “Today’s figures are disappointing but, with exactly four weeks to go the high street is pulling out all the stops to get the tills ringing in the run up to Christmas.
“Retailers are still confident sales will be strong this year and with Christmas Day falling mid-week this provides what the sector considers to be an extra day of trade, on the Monday, after the final weekend rush.”