According to a recent survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), seasonal clothing sales in the UK have been disappointing for this time of year. The survey also revealed a significant decline in online sales, which is expected to continue in the coming months. Although department stores saw a slight uplift in sales, their performance was only considered average for this period.

One of the main concerns highlighted in the survey is the low stock levels. Retailers and wholesalers reported that their stocks were insufficient compared to the expected sales, reaching a 38-year low in June. Unfortunately, this trend is expected to persist in the coming months.

Despite these challenges, there is some positive news. The easing of lockdown restrictions on stores and the hospitality industry, along with the successful vaccination program, has led to the strongest overall sales since November 2016. The CBI survey included 117 firms, 56 of which were retailers. It showed that UK retail sales and orders have grown at the fastest pace since August 2018 and September 2015, respectively. This growth was primarily driven by grocers and sub-sectors related to home improvements.

In fact, overall sales were significantly higher than seasonal norms, reaching the highest level since November 2016. The survey predicts that sales will continue to be strong in the coming month. However, it’s important to approach these figures with caution as they are compared to June 2020, when activity was heavily impacted by the national lockdown.

Despite the relatively positive outlook for June, Ben Jones, principal economist at the CBI, emphasized that the retail sector still has a long way to go towards a full recovery. Inner-city footfall remains significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels, and supply chain challenges continue to affect global activity. In addition to these obstacles, retailers are also grappling with the financial implications of previous lockdowns. While the extension of the rent moratorium is welcomed, further support is needed, including the continuation of existing business rate reliefs.

To summarize, the CBI survey presents a mixed picture for the retail industry in June. Although there are signs of improvement and strong sales in certain sectors, significant challenges still need to be overcome before a full recovery can be achieved. Continued support and solutions are necessary to help retailers navigate these uncertain times and ensure a sustainable and successful future for the industry.

Useful links (if applicable):
The Guardian – UK Retail Sales See Strongest Growth Since November 2016
BBC News – UK Retail Sales Grow at Fastest Pace in Over Two Years