High street spending recovers as shoppers return

| February 26, 2010
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The quarterly Confederation of British Industry (CBI) report has revealed shoppers returned the High Street in their droves in February after UK retailers reported their strongest growth in sales volumes for two years in early February.

The CBI also believes further growth will be experienced in March as consumers begin to loosen their purse strings.

According to the CBI’s latest Distributive Trades Survey, almost a quarter of retailers said sales volumes in early February were lower than a year ago but 46% said they were higher.

The resulting balance of 23% is a substantial improvement on the -8% seen in January. Furthermore, the CBI said its survey revealed that a balance of 16% of retailers expect further growth in March.

Sales of clothes and household goods were particularly strong this month, said the CBI.

Commenting on its latest data, the CBI said: “Following a recent series of worrying economic data and surveys including the news that business investment fell sharply in the fourth quarter of 2009, the February CBI distributive trades survey offers some very welcome respite.”

Meanwhile Richard Lowe, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays, said: “February has defied expectations with a return to positive growth in the retail sector. Businesses will be enthused by this news after the New Year began with a reining in of consumer spending which commentators had seen as a possible sign of a double-dip recession on the horizon.”

In related news today, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the UK economy grew by 0.3% in the October to December period – slightly higher than the 0.1% estimated last month.

The figures will come as a relief to many who had feared the worst with growth being revised downwards.

However, the Nationwide Building Society has today revealed a 1% fall in house prices for the month of February compared with January.

It was the first time in 10 months that house prices have fallen as the wintry weather deterred house hunters, according to the Nationwide.

The figures surprised analysts who had forecast a gain of 0.4% for February but it is too soon to say whether this is a temporary setback or the start of a double dip in house prices.

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