Retail sales have recovered strongly in the year to December, bouncing back after two disappointing months, the CBI said today (Wednesday).

Grocers, department stores and clothing shops, which had seen sales fall in the year to November, saw sales rebound strongly, according to the CBI's latest Distributive Trades Survey1 of 106 firms2.

Retailers expect robust growth in sales volumes to continue in the year to January.

Elsewhere, wholesalers' sales were broadly flat on a year ago, for a second consecutive month, while sales were flat in the motor trade sector.

Barry Williams, Asda Chief Merchandising Officer for Food, and Chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Survey Panel, said:

"After a disappointing couple of months, sales volumes in December recovered their sparkle, beating retailers' expectations.

"Customers have clearly held off spending through the Autumn and we're only now seeing them start to hit the stores.

"Retailers are now gearing up for the crucial pre-Christmas week and are optimistic for the New Year."

Key findings:

People Shopping-1 © The economic VoiceRetailers

· 48% of respondents reported that sales were up on a year ago, while 14% said they were down, giving a balance3 of +34%, above expectations (+24%)

· 31% expect sales growth to continue next month, while 2% expect sales to decrease, giving a rounded balance of +29%

· Many sub-sectors saw a strong sales performance: grocers (+40%), non-specialised stores (including department stores) (+36%) and clothing (+33%) all rebounded from negative balances in November (-20%, -28% and -15% respectively)

· 36% placed more orders with suppliers than they did a year ago and 10% placed fewer orders, giving a rounded balance of +25%.

Wholesaling

· 37% of wholesalers reported that sales were up on a year ago, while 39% said they were down, giving a rounded balance of -3%

· Sales of building materials (+48%), clothing, textiles & footwear (+30%) and durable household goods (+30%) grew, whereas food & drink (-59%) fell. Agricultural & industrial machinery sales were flat (0%).

Motor trades

· 37% of motor traders reported that sales were up on a year ago, while 37% said they were down, giving a balance of 0%. This was significantly better than expectations (-40%) and followed a fall in the previous month (-26%).

DTS Results tables December 2013

1. Firms responding to the Distributive Trades Survey (DTS) are responsible for a third of employment in retailing. The survey includes measures of sales activity across the distributive trades. It was first introduced in 1983 and the retail results form the UK component of the EC survey of retail trades.

2. The survey was conducted between 27th November and 11th December 2013. 106 firms took part, of which 62 were retailers, 38 were wholesalers and 6 motor traders.

3. A balance is the difference between the percentage of retailers reporting an increase and those reporting a decrease.

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