Retailers predict sales lift

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The Independent Online
THE RISE in high street sales slowed in the year to April but retailers expect a new lift to business in May, the Confederation of British Industry said yesterday, writes Peter Torday.

In a potentially encouraging sign for manufacturers, the CBI said its latest monthly Distributive Trades Survey showed that wholesalers now consider their stocks to be less than adequate to meet demand - the first such finding since January 1986. The employers' organisation said that higher consumer demand might now be leading to increased orders from the manufacturing shop floor, rather than the storeroom shelf.

The rise in April retail sales was the fourth successive monthly upturn, but sales were below levels considered normal for this time of year. Retailers predict that expectations of a further rise in sales this month should lead to stepped-up orders from suppliers.

The City expects official figures tomorrow to confirm a gentle rise in sales last month. Figures out today are likely to disclose that factory output moderated in March after strong growth in the first two months.

Of the 285 retail outlets surveyed, 46 per cent reported higher sales than a year earlier while 29 per cent said sales were lower. The resulting positive balance of 17 per cent was the lowest since January.