UK retailers report sales slump eased in February, CBI says

By Thomson Reuters Feb 26, 2024 | 5:03 AM

LONDON (Reuters) – The pace of a sales decline for British retailers eased in February and a measure of inflation dropped to its weakest in nearly three years, according to industry figures which echoed official data published earlier this month.

The Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) monthly retail sales balance, a gauge of sales versus a year ago, rose to -7 from -50 in January, the slowest fall in 10 months.

But retailers expected the decline in sales to pick up slightly in March to -15.

“The slump in retail activity eased in February following an exceedingly dreary start to the year,” Martin Sartorius, CBI principal economist, said.

“Nevertheless, with sales expected to continue falling next month, retailers are still planning to reduce headcount and investment going forward.”

Quarterly data from the CBI showed selling price inflation in the year to February was the weakest since May 2021 at +54, down sharply from +73 in November.

Official data published earlier in February showed British retail sales increased by the most in nearly three years in January as consumers recovered some of their appetite for spending, suggesting Britain’s economy could emerge quickly from its recession in the second half of last year.

Companies told the CBI they were planning to cut investment although those plans were the least negative in two years. Employment fell for the sixth quarter in a row. But firms turned a little more optimistic about the outlook for the sector.

(Reporting by Suban Abdulla; Editing by William Schomberg)