Sales growth confounds forecasts

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The Independent Online
HIGH-STREET sales surged in September after a sharp dip in the summer, showing their strongest growth this year. Retailers expect the trend to stay strong next month, suggesting fears of a slowdown in consumer spending have been exaggerated, writes Diane Coyle.

A balance of 28 per cent of the retailers in the Confederation of British Industry's monthly distributive trades survey reported increased sales last month compared with a year earlier. This is the highest balance since December, and compares with an unexpectedly weak 2 per cent in August and 12 per cent in July.

Nigel Whittaker, chairman of the CBI's distributive trades panel, said: 'The pick-up in high-street trade reported in September confirms that the trend in retail sales remains firmly upward.'

He said the underlying annual growth rate had followed an uneven path earlier in the year but now seemed to have levelled out. Several times this year the CBI survey has shown reported retail sales dipping in months in which the official retail sales figures, published later, showed an increase.

Footwear and leather retailers enjoyed the biggest increases in the year to September. Sales of household goods were also strong.

Specialist retailers such as butchers, bakers and greengrocers, however, suffered big declines. Chemists shops saw a small year- on-year fall in sales.

Wholesalers also saw a September recovery, with their sales well above average for the time of year.