Festive spending is off to a sluggish start

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The Independent Online

Fears are growing for the UK economy as retailers suffered a worse-than-expected start to December, according to the CBI distributive trades survey.

In total, 36 per cent of retailers reported an increase in volume of sales compared with a year ago, and 17 per cent a decrease. But the balance of plus 19 per cent was down on the previous two months, which saw balances of at plus 30 per cent or more. In addition, 18 per cent more retailers felt that sales volumes were lower than they ought to be at this time of year.

"This month's survey hasn't quite provided the Christmas cheer that retailers anticipated, with sales growth falling short of expectation," Anna Leach, CBI head of economic analysis, said. "Clearly, weak spending power and uncertainty over the economic outlook are likely to remain key risks to the retail sector in 2013."

Retailers selling big-ticket items such as home furnishings are suffering the most closely followed by footwear stores. At the other end of the scale, grocers are doing better than expected as are clothing retailers, the CBI said.