UK retailers' investment intentions weakest in seven years
The survey of 100 firms, of which 47 were retailers, showed that retail sales volumes remained unchanged for the second successive month in February.
However, the volume of sales was seen to be around the average for the time of year, for the first time since September, whilst orders placed on suppliers also rose moderately.
Within the retail sector, grocers continued to provide the biggest positive contribution to volumes growth, with support from clothing stores, non-store retailers and recreational goods stores.
By contrast sales volumes fell among retailers of footwear & leather, hardware & DIY goods, and furniture & carpets.
Looking ahead, retailers’ expectations regarding the business situation have stabilised for the first time in a year.
Sales volumes are expected to pick up sharply in the year to March, with growth expectations at the highest since October 2015.
Similarly, the volume of orders placed on suppliers is expected to rise briskly.
Meanwhile growth in online sales, which remained around the long-run average in the year February, is expected to slow slightly in the year to March.
Conditions for retailers nonetheless remain challenging.
Investment intentions for the year ahead deteriorated further, to their weakest since February 2012.
Meanwhile, employment in the sector was reported to have fallen in the year to February—the ninth consecutive quarterly survey showing a decline—and at a quicker pace than reported in November.
Employment is expected to continue falling in the year to March.
Elsewhere, wholesalers reported a slowdown in sales volumes growth in the year to February to around the long-run average, while orders placed upon suppliers fell at the fastest pace since July 2016.
Motor traders saw a strong pick up in sales growth, with sales for the time of year seen as their strongest since September 2016. ■