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8:51 AM 26th November 2021
business

Christmas Comes Early For Retailers With Strong Sales In November – CBI Quarterly Distributive Trades Survey

Image: Stevepb /Pixabay
Image: Stevepb /Pixabay
Retailers reported that sales in November were good for the time of year and to the greatest extent since September 2015, according to the latest CBI quarterly Distributive Trades Survey. Retail sales are expected to remain above seasonal norms to broadly a similar extent next month.

The survey of 125 companies, including 51 retailers, found that year-on-year retail sales growth accelerated in November, while internet sales fell for the first time in survey history (question first asked in 2001). Both results will be affected by base effects, reflecting the tightening of Covid-19 restrictions in November 2020, which weighed on overall volumes but pushed up internet sales growth.

Growth in orders placed with suppliers slowed in the year to November, but remained well above the long-run average. Stock levels in relation to expected sales were seen as broadly adequate for the first time since April in November, having hit a series of record lows during the previous six months. (Stock adequacy for the distribution sector as a whole was still seen as too low, although to a lesser degree than at any time since May.)

Quarterly questions found that retail selling prices increased at the fastest pace since May 1990 and are expected to rise at a broadly similar pace next month. Total employment grew in the year to November, the first time that retailers’ headcount has risen since November 2016, with a similar rate of growth expected next month.

Meanwhile, investment intentions for the year ahead rose strongly for the third consecutive quarter, albeit at a slightly slower pace than last quarter. Overall optimism in the business situation also continued to rise, with the balance of retailers expecting an improvement in conditions over the next quarter the most positive November 2016.

Ben Jones, CBI Lead Economist, said:“Christmas seems to have come early for retailers, with clothing and department stores in particular seeing a big upward swing in sales volumes in November.

“It seems likely that reports of supply chain disruptions prompted consumers to start their Christmas shopping early. And there are encouraging signs that retailers’ efforts to help avoid any festive disappointments may be paying off, with stock levels seen as adequate for the first time in seven months.

“Overall, retailers are becoming more optimistic, with both employment growth and investment intentions picking up strongly. Cost pressures remain a very real concern, however, with selling prices growing at the fastest pace since 1990.”

Key findings (all figures are weighted balances):

Retailers

Retailers reported sales in November as strong for the time of year (balance of +35% from -1% last month). Sales are expected to remain above seasonal norms to broadly a similar extent next month (+32%)
Year-on-year retail sales growth increased at a faster rate than last month (+39% from +30%) and is expected to pick up again in the year to December (+56%).
Orders growth eased in the year to November (+30% from +48%; average is +8%) but is expected to pick up again next month (+45%).
Year-on-year internet sales fell for the first time in survey history (-14% from +7% last month; a question first asked in Aug 2001) but is expected to return to growth next month (+17%).
Stock levels in relation to expected sales were broadly adequate (-2% from -23%) and are expected to be good next month (+4%).
Selling prices grew at the fastest pace since May 1990 (+77% from +73% last quarter) and are expected to grow at a broadly similar pace next month (+80%)
Total employment grew in the year to November (+19% from -13% last quarter), with a similar rate of growth expected next month (+21%)
Investment intentions for the year ahead grew strongly for the third consecutive quarter, albeit at a slightly slower pace than last quarter (+31% from +36%)
Retailers expect business conditions to improve over the next three months (+8% from +6% last quarter).


Wholesalers and motor trade

Wholesalers reported sales above seasonal norms to the greatest extent since January 2018 (+43% from +27%), while motor traders reported sales as above seasonal norms to a lesser extent than last month (+31% from +57%).
Wholesalers expect sales to remain good for the time of year next month (+37%) but motor traders expect sales to be below seasonal norms (-9%).

Distribution

Stock levels in relation to expected sales were too low for the eighth consecutive month (-18% from -31%) but to a lesser extent than at any time since May.