CBI retail figures released yesterday have highlighted the gaping chasm between retail sales data from official Government sources and what is actually going on on the high street.
The CBI figures have, finally, presented some sensible-sounding trading figures, with a balance of 9 per cent of retailers reporting weaker sales than a year ago.
During the period from the end of May to June 11, clothing retailers have seen the biggest fall in sales since the survey began in 1984.
Clothing sales fell for the third month running, with 57 per cent more retailers reporting a decline in business.
The figures contrast starkly with Office for National Statistics figures released last week, which revealed a record increase in sales in May, prompting Pali International analyst Nick Bubb to quip: “What planet is the ONS on?”
Yesterday, the CBI warned that the distance between its figures and ONS data was now the largest since it started collating retail statistics in the early 1980s.
It seems strange that retailers would want to shout about a survey that also reveals that the high street is facing its toughest six months in 16 years, and the next few years will bring the worst annual growth in spending since 1992, but there is method.
Last week’s overly rosy ONS figures pushed the likelihood that inflation and ultimately interest rates will rise when the MPC next meets, further slowing customer spending.
However, the CBI figures this week provided another good sign for inflation levels, when it revealed that its members are reluctant to raise wages.
And it seems certain that next month will reveal another swing in the opposite direction in the figures from the ONS in June following the effect of weather last month.
The CBI figures may go some way to tempering inflation and rate rises, if acknowledged by the powers-that-be.
It was an ill wind that blew through Moss Bros’ bad tempered AGM yesterday, when chief executive Philip Mountford was subjected to hostile questioning by shareholder factions.
First, he was told to put “clear water” between himself and Baugur, the retailer’s largest shareholder. Then angry shareholders wanted to know why no chairman had been put in place, knowing that Keith Hamill would be on his way faster than Primark’s lead times.
Why indeed? The proposition of umpiring a slanging match between warring shareholders must be so attractive to potential candidates.
What seems to be forgotten among the war of words is that Moss Bros has a good cash position and could benefit, given a period of stability and a fresh injection of blood.