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Retail sales "expected to pick up" in April

Retail sales are expected to pick up next month after flat sales in March, research from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has suggested.

According to the report, 26 per cent of firms reported a rise in sales volumes compared with the previous year, while the same number said they were down, giving a balance of zero per cent. This was the lowest balance since August 2012 when it reached three per cent and has ended six consecutive months of growth.

A total of 17 per cent of respondents reported good sales volumes for the time of year and 37 per cent poor, which resulted in a balance of 20 per cent.

Grocers recorded no sales growth in March, but this was an improvement on the drop of minus 26 per cent experienced in February.

However, the survey indicated a rise in sales volumes in the year to April. Some 37 per cent of those quizzed said they are expecting an increase versus 22 per cent, giving a balance of plus 15 per cent.

Barry Williams, Asda chief merchandising officer for food and chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Survey panel, said, "This month we've seen a glimmer of hope for retailers fade away, with the news that six months of sales growth has come to an end.

“All eyes are now on April when retailers expect sales to return to form.

"However, pay freezes and the rising cost of living are hitting households hard and, added to a challenging economic picture, there may well be more tough trading conditions ahead."

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