Retail sales soar while supply issues mount

Retail sales grew at the sharpest pace since December 2014 in the year to August, while orders growth hit a survey record high, according to the latest CBI quarterly Distributive Trades Survey.
Stock levels in relation to expected sales hit a survey record low across retail and the distribution sector as a whole – marking the fifth consecutive month in which a record low has been reached in distribution sector stock levels.

The proportion of deliveries from suppliers accounted for by imports also fell sharply, at one of the fastest rates in the survey’s history.

Despite signs of operational challenges, investment intentions for the next 12 months picked up in the year to August and are now at their strongest since February 1994. Overall, retailers expect the business situation to improve slightly over the coming quarter.

Alpesh Paleja, CBI lead economist, said: “A ramping up in retail sales growth in the year to August shows just how much consumer demand continues to spur economic recovery. While sales growth is set to remain strong, a more definitive shift in household spending towards consumer services is anticipated later in the year – leading to greater normalisation of growth in the retail sector.

“Furthermore, there are signs of operational challenges still biting, with stock levels reaching another record low and import penetration falling. Disruption is being exacerbated by continued labour shortages, with many retailers reliant on younger employees currently awaiting their jab.

“Thankfully, changes to the self-isolation rules have eased the impact of the pingdemic on firms. But ensuring continued progress on vaccine roll-out for younger cohorts is crucial. This will also boost confidence as we move onto a new stage in the pandemic, namely living with the virus.”

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