Retailers had a good Christmas, CBI says

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The Independent Online
Further evidence that shops enjoyed a strong Christmas emerged from a survey by the Confederation of British Industry which showed that retail trade was above the seasonal average for the first time since 1993, writes Paul Wallace.

According to the CBI distributive trades survey, the annual growth in the volume of retail sales in December was the strongest for two years. Retailers said they expected a similar punchy performance in January.

The highest volume increases compared with a year earlier were reported by footwear and clothing outlets followed by chemists and grocers.

However, specialist food shops and furniture and carpet retailers said that sales had fallen in comparison with last year.

Injecting a note of caution, Alastair Eperon, chairman of the CBI's distributive trades survey panel, warned: "Last month's strong trading performance may have been partly achieved through an earlier start to sales activity reflecting intense competition among retailers. This may have encouraged consumers to hunt for bargains a month earlier than usual."

An indication of the pressure on retailers was that stock levels built up in December and remained higher than necessary in relation to expected demand. Retailers also said they were planning to run down stocks in a big way in January.