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Only ecommerce shows signs of growth this January: survey

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Online sales are rising strongly this month despite a slump in high street spending this month, according to CBI figures.

Ecommerce was the only part of the UK retail market to report growth in the first two weeks of January, the period covered by the body’s latest monthly CBI Distributive Trades Survey. It found 44% of retailers reported that sales volumes were down compared to the same time last year while 22% reported a rise, giving a balance of -22%.

At the same time retailers offering internet and mail-order sales – the non-store category – reported, on balance, large rises in sales, at +50%. This level of growth, said CBI chief economic adviser Ian McCafferty, was still weaker than the +91% growth seen in December.

“Online and mail order sales were the only areas that performed well in January,” he said, “but growth was still down on last month.”

Across UK retail, traders said sales were disappointing for the time of year (-20%) and that orders were down (-14%), while firms also expect levels to fall again next month (-23%).

McCafferty said: “Shoppers have reined-in spending across the board at the start of the New Year after taking advantage of early discounting last month, which boosted pre-Christmas sales.”

The retail categories that saw the biggest falls in spending were durable household goods (-100%), hardware and DIY (-80%) and non-specialisist traders such as department stores (-34%). Grocers saw sales rise (+6%) though not at the strong levels seen in December (+52%).

“Family budgets are under continuing pressure with inflation still high and wage increases modest,” said McCafferty. “Consumers are still holding off particularly from buying big ticket items like washing machines and fridges.”

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