According to the CBI Distributive Trades Survey, 60 per cent of retailers said sales in the first half of August were lower than a year ago, while just 13 per cent said they were up.
The resulting rounded balance of -46 per cent is the weakest since the survey began 25 years ago. The CBI anticipated the figure would be -32 per cent.
The CBI pointed out that differences in the survey’s methodology over the period diminished the comparison. But Andy Clarke, CBI Distributive Trades Panel chairman and Asda retail director, said: “This has been a summer that many retailers would rather forget. The downturn in the housing market is continuing to depress sales for those shops selling big-ticket items.”
The three-month moving average of sales volumes continued to fall, and the balance of -30 per cent was also a survey low. Sales for the time of year were reported as poor by a net 43 per cent of retailers.
A net 31 per cent of retailers said their headcount is lower than a year ago, and the weakened labour market conditions are expected to continue into September.
Confidence in the sector has fallen again, with a balance of 38 per cent of retailers expecting business to worsen over the next three months. This has dampened investment intentions, which have dropped to -34 per cent. The CBI said this is much weaker than the historical average.
Sales were weak across all sectors, except for grocery, which reported “modest growth” on a year ago.