3 May 2017 - Janet Bird
Retail sales exceeded all expectations in April, growing at their fastest pace since 2015.
Data compiled for the CBI Distributive Trades Survey revealed 59 percent of retailers reported increased sales in April compared to the same month the previous year. A total of 21 percent said sales were down, meaning a balance of 38 percent growth - the highest figure since September two years ago, when growth was at 49 percent.
The CBI surveyed 112 companies, of which 57 were retailers. Their findings also revealed orders placed with suppliers in April rose at its fastest rate for 18 months.
The positive picture this portrays of buoyant consumer confidence contrasts starkly with data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) last week.
The ONS report indicated the retail sector had experienced a 1.4 percent drop in sales in the three months to March 2017 - its most significant fall in sales for seven years - and blamed increased living costs for eating into household spending.
The CBI, however, said April's sales figures had proved stronger than expected, particularly considering their survey did not cover the peak shopping time of the Easter holidays.
That said, the CBI survey also showed retailers are expecting sales growth to slow next month, as inflation forces a reduction in household spending.