Retailers experienced little change in sales volume year-on-year with 34% of retailers surveyed in February’s CBI Distributive Trades Survey reporting an increase, while 36% reporting a decline.
This gave a negative balance of 2%, an improvement on last month’s negative 22% balance.
Fortunes were mixed among retail sectors, with grocers reporting significant increases in their volume of sales - a balance of positive 55% - and non-store retailers recording a positive 71%.
However, other sectors were weaker with clothing retailers posting a negative 41% balance, the lowest figure since March 2009. Sales of household goods and DIY products continued to fall rapidly, with a balance of negative 100% and negative 98% recorded respectively.
Asda chief operating officer and chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel Judith McKenna said “It’s good to see there are more positive signs on our high streets. But consumers are clearly continuing to focus their spending on day-to-day needs, rather than big ticket or luxury items.”
“With disposable incomes under constant pressure, retailers remain concerned about the general business outlook for the rest of 2012.”
Barclays Corporate head of retail and wholesale Richard Lowe said the figures provided “a shot in the arm” for retailers.
Price inflation in shops, although above the long-run average with a balance of positive 49%, is down from its positive 73% peak a year ago and at its lowest rate since late 2010.
Retailers expect March’s sales volumes to remain flat but still harbour concerns about the longer term outlook with sentiment about the general business situation over the next three months remaining negative at a negative 12% balance.