Figures for the first half of April revealed the strength of demand was far greater than expected, which meant stock levels were run down. As a result, the level of orders to suppliers is expected to remain strong during May.
Sixty four per cent of retailers said sales volumes had increased compared with a year ago. About 20 per cent said they had fallen, giving a strong balance of 44 per cent - the highest since May 2004. Retailers were also upbeat about May, with 36 per cent forecasting that volumes will continue to increase - the highest expectations since July 2004.
Sales were strong among household and DIY retailers, although the furniture and carpet sector experienced declines in April, compared with last year. However, food and footwear retailers reported robust sales increases during the month.
The CBI said a zero balance on stock levels was the lowest on record and indicates that stocks were only just adequate to meet demand.
CBI's distributive trades survey panel chairman and executive director of Asda John Longworth said: 'Retailers were helped by buoyant Easter trading and unusually warm weather, which may have boosted sales in sectors like groceries and DIY. Looking ahead, retailers expect demand to remain strong as we head into the summer and the recent trend of healthy sales growth seems set to continue.'
Among wholesalers, a balance of 34 per cent reported higher sales volumes than a year ago, which is an improvement on March. However, sales in May are expected to grow at a slightly slower rate of 28 per cent.