Sales expanded for the ninth consecutive month, according to a survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), as clothing sales bounced back following a dismal January sales period, and a buoyant housing market boosted furniture and carpet retailers.
Barry Williams, chairman of the CBI’s Distributive Trades survey, said: “The high streets have kicked on once again this month. Overall sales have been remarkably resilient in the face of disruption from the exceptional weather across the UK, which has badly affected many families and businesses.”
The CBI’s survey of 120 companies showed 45% of respondents reported higher sales in February compared with a year ago, while 8% reported a decline. The resulting positive balance of 37% is the highest since June 2012. Optimism about future growth also rose, with a balance of 28% of companies expecting further growth next month.
The survey also indicated that retailers were stepping up investment.
A positive balance of 17% of retailers expected to increase spending over the coming year – the highest since November 2010.
Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said: “This is a boost for hopes that business investment is now picking up markedly and will increasingly contribute to growth, helping it to become more balanced and sustainable.”
Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, warned this month that flooding across southern England would “affect the near-term [growth] outlook”. However, Tuesday’s data suggested the impact of the floods would be smaller than originally feared.
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