Ecommerce growth slowed in the year to November, while retail sales across all channels stopped falling, new CBI figures suggest.
The latest quarterly CBI Distributive Trends survey suggested that in November, online sales grew at their weakest since June – and were expected to remain at a “below-average pace” into next month. On balance, +25% of retailers said that they had seen online sales grow. That’s down from +49% last quarter. Next month, a balance of +23% expect ecommerce sales to grow.
Across all channels, the CBI said sales in the year to November were broadly unchanged – marking a pause after six consecutive months of decline. It says retailers predict a return to growth in the year to December.
Anna Leach, CBI deputy chief economist, said: “Retailers are entering the festive season with a bit of hope that sales will head up, with the strongest expectations in half a year. Actual sales have also stabilised and have nudged above average for the time of year. And employment has stopped falling after three years of decline. But Brexit uncertainty continues to weigh on investment plans for the year ahead, which remain weak. As the election period gets into full swing, retailers will welcome the prominence being given to fixing the broken business rates system. But it will be up to the next Government to turn warm words into action.”
Reports of the greatest retail growth came from grocers, while non-specialised stores, clothing and non-store retailers reported declining sales.
Wholesalers saw the sharpest fall in their business since August 2012. Orders fell at their fastest rate since July 2016.
The CBI said that growth had been more volatile across the economy more broadly, in response to changing Brexit deadlines and a slowing in underlying momentum.
It added: “We expect the economy to continue to grow modestly in the event of a ‘smooth’ transition to a new Brexit deal, with a no-deal Brexit likely to hit output and financial markets significantly.”