GB: CBI Distributive Trades

Tue Nov 24 05:00:00 CST 2015

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Level 25 7 19

The CBI's new Distributive Trades Survey suggests that November was a less than sparkling period for the high street. At just 7 percent, the balance of retailers reporting higher volume sales on the year was down some 12 percentage points from its October reading, well short of market expectations and at its weakest level since February.

That said, actual sales jumped 1.3 percent on the month in November 2014 so there was always going to be some downside risk to the CBI's annual growth proxy. As it is, the CBI is forecasting a rebound in the headline index to 31 percent in December and, significantly, hiring in the sector is now running at its fastest pace in seventeen years. November's disappointingly sluggish results may also have been hit by seasonally warm weather.

Still, after a 0.6 percent monthly decline in purchases in October the CBI's findings warn that retail sales growth this quarter could slow from the 0.8 percent rate posted in July-September. In any event, the results support the view that a hike in Bank Rate is as far away as ever.

This survey was first introduced in 1983 and is an indicator of short-term trends in the UK retail and wholesale distribution sector. The quarterly and monthly surveys both cover volume of sales, orders on suppliers, sales for the time of year and stocks, while the quarterly survey also covers imports, selling prices, numbers employed, investment and business situation. Both monthly and quarterly surveys now contain questions on current and expected internet sales and average prices for internet goods.

This survey is a leading indicator of consumer spending because retailer and wholesaler sales are directly influenced by consumer buying levels. The monthly update provides a vital update on volume of sales, orders and stocks. Like the industrial survey, it carries significant weight in the formulation of economic policy at the Bank of England and within government as a highly respected barometer of high street trade. It is considered to be an advance indicator of retail sales although it is not well correlated with the official data on a monthly basis.

Monthly and quarterly