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Retail sales slide in April as shoppers tighten belts

People queuing for shops at the opening of the St James Quarter shopping centre in Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)
People queuing for shops at the opening of the St James Quarter shopping centre in Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

Retail sales volumes sank in April for the first time in more than a year, according to new figures.

The closely-watched Confederation of British Industry (CBI) monthly distributive trades survey revealed the slump as the increased cost of living continues to weigh on shoppers.

The CBI’s headline retail sales balance plummeted to -35% in April, from a +9% reading in March.

Surveyed firms said they expect sales volumes to continue to decline, although at a more modest pace, as firms predicted a -8% reading for May.

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

The data also showed the first fall in the number of orders made to suppliers in 13 months amid the dampening in consumer sentiment.

Internet sales volumes also continued their decline against last year, although this slowed down slightly against the level reported in March.

Martin Sartorius, principal economist at the CBI, said: “Retail sales were below seasonal norms in April as consumer spending continued to shift back towards services and rising prices impacted households’ spending power.

“Rapid inflation means that the cost-of-living crisis is going nowhere soon.

“To combat these challenges, the Government will need to keep a close eye on support for vulnerable households and businesses struggling with higher energy prices.

“Meanwhile, going for growth must continue to be the government’s primary domestic focus, as increasing productivity growth is the only sustainable route to raise living standards.”

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