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Retailers suffer ‘poor’ March as online sales slump

The survey said sales were also expected to be below seasonal norms next month as the cost of living crisis continues to bite.

24 March 2022

Retailers saw “poor” sales for the time of year in March as online trade saw the sharpest drop on record, according to new data.

The Confederation for British Industry (CBI) quarterly Distributive Trades Survey said that sales were also expected to be below seasonal norms next month as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite.

The retail survey showed a balance of -23 for March, as significantly more retailers reported a deterioration in trading for the month.

It came after a reading of +16 in February.

The survey question deducts the number of firms saying they reported a decline in sales from the number reporting growth for the period.

“Retail sales were seen as poor for the time of year in March and are expected to remain below seasonal norms, but to a lesser extent, in April,” the CBI said in the report.

The figures also showed that orders placed with suppliers were marginally higher, at +3%, in the year to March, compared with a +11% reading in February.

Meanwhile, internet sales volumes slumped in the year to March, with a balance of -46%, representing the sharpest fall since it was first part of the survey in August 2009.

Martin Sartorius, principal economist at the CBI, said: “Retailers had a mediocre March, with sales reported as being below seasonal norms.

“The cost-of-living crisis is looming large across the sector, as households’ wallets are being hit by the fastest rate of inflation in decades.

“The Chancellor’s spring statement outlined new support for those on low incomes amid these financial challenges.

“But further action will be needed to galvanise consumer confidence, shore up incomes, and support spending on UK high streets in the tough months to come.”

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