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Julie Meyer
Michael Oliver

Retail sales strongest since September 2015

Retailers saw sales grow at the strongest pace since September 2015 over the year to October, according to new research.

The CBI Distributive Trades Survey shows 40 per cent of retailers report higher sales volumes year-on-year, while 19 per cent said they were down, giving a balance of 21 per cent. This was above expectations (seven per cent) and an improvement on the previous month's balance of minus eight per cent.

Clothing, furniture and carpets and hardware and DIY drove sales higher, while sales by grocers and department stores were flat.

Rain Newton-Smith, the CBI's chief economist, said: "With our Indian Summer now a distant memory, shoppers have been pounding the high street, with sales of clothing and other retailers outpacing expectations.

"With employment still rising and the unemployment rate at an 11-year low, household spending still has some momentum in the short-term, but we do expect the fall in the value of the pound to push up prices through the course of next year, hitting people’s purchasing power."

The figures come as separate research by GfK shows consumer confidence dipped in October, although consumers were still prepared to spend.

The index measuring whether consumers think now is a good time to make a major purchase rose by five points to 14 - twice as high compared with this time last year.

This is despite the overall Consumer Confidence Index dipping two points to minus three.

Joe Staton, head of market dynamics at GfK, said: "Declining optimism about economic prospects for the wider UK economy has depressed the consumer mood this month. Despite the continuing feel-good factor arising from persistent low interest and inflation rates, sterling's sharp decline is arguably stoking fears that price rises will hit UK living standards hard next year.

"However, views on the state of our personal financial situation for the past year and next continue to remain positive (when comparing with 2015 levels), underlining that we feel more optimistic about situations we can control.

"This month also continues the upward trend on spending intentions with high levels of agreement in the Major Purchase Index. This shows that many consumers agree now is the right time for people to spend. So, with Black Friday approaching and Christmas trading already underway, will the remainder of 2016 see halcyon days for retailing? Are we gearing up to shop now and pay later amid concerns over rising high street prices?"

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