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Retail sales dive and expectations hit record low in shutdown
23 February 2021

UK retail sales plunged in the year to February after non-essential stores shut their doors, while retailer expectations for the next month have fallen to their lowest on record, according to new figures.

The Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) latest retail survey revealed a decline in both sales volumes and orders over the past year.

It said that grocery businesses were the only retailers to see any growth in sales volumes in the 12-month period amid coronavirus restrictions. The CBI revealed a 45% decline in sales for the period

Retailers also predicted a much sharper decline for March, at 62%, representing the worst projection since records began in 1983.

It also said the index for retail orders stood at -36%, a slight improvement on January’s data.

In another sign of changing consumer habits during lockdown, the survey’s index of internet retail sales hit a record high.

The news comes after the Prime Minister laid out his road map out of current coronavirus restrictions, with non-essential retailers due to reopen from 12 April at the earliest.

Ben Jones, principal economist at the CBI, said: “With lockdown measures still in place, trading conditions remain extremely difficult for retailers.

“Retailers will welcome the clarity on reopening provided by the Government’s road map, which suggests a return to some semblance of normality is on the horizon.

“But with activity in town and city centres likely to take some time to fully recover, many retailers are still facing a difficult few months.

“They will be looking to the Government to extend support in parallel with wider restrictions when the Chancellor unveils his budget next week.”

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