High street sales were flat in the year to April, disappointing some forecasters in their hopes for a return to growth.
While 31 per cent of retailers said sales were up in April, 33 per cent said they declined, according to the CBI's Distributive Trades Survey. This gave a balance of -2 per cent, compared to expectations of 16 per cent growth.
But there are healthier expectations for next month, as 33 per cent foresee a rise in sales versus just eight per cent expecting a drop.
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“Its no secret that UK high streets have endured tough trading conditions in recent months, with some big names closing or cutting back," said Anna Leach, head of economic intelligence at CBI.
"Much of this reflects ongoing structural changes in the sector as well as the continued squeeze on households real incomes. While conditions have improved for households recently – with real wage growth inching into positive territory – we expect further gains in living standards to remain modest. So the pressure looks set to stay on retailers for the time being.”
While sales of clothing and furniture were down, hardware and food sales grew and recreational goods also experienced a boost.
Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY ITEM Club said that economic conditions were becoming more positive for consumers.
“The squeeze on consumers is now waning with inflation moderating and earnings growth firming. Indeed, real income growth has just returned to positive territory – albeit marginal – after being negative since the early months of 2017."