Retailers suffer ‘bad’ March as online sales slump

Retailers reported “mediocre” sales for the time of year in March as online commerce suffered the biggest decline on record, new data shows.

The Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) quarterly retail occupations survey said sales are also expected to be below seasonal norms next month as the cost of living crisis continues to unfold feel.

The retail trade survey showed a balance of -23 for March as many more retailers reported deterioration in trade for the month.

It came after reading +16 in February.

The survey question deducts the number of businesses reporting a decline in sales from the number reporting growth for the period.

“Retail sales were considered poor for the time of year in March and are expected to remain below seasonal norms, but to a lesser extent, in April,” the CBI said in the report.

The figures also showed that orders placed with suppliers were slightly higher, at +3%, in the year to March, compared to +11% in February.

Meanwhile, internet sales volumes slumped in the year through March, with a balance of -46%, the biggest drop since being part of the survey in August 2009.

Martin Sartorius, senior economist at the CBI, said: “Retailers had a poor month of March with sales reported to be below seasonal norms.

“The cost of living crisis is looming across the sector, as household wallets are hit by the fastest rate of inflation in decades.

“The Chancellor’s spring statement outlined new support for low-income people facing these financial challenges.

“But further action will be needed to galvanize consumer confidence, shore up incomes and support spending on UK high streets in the difficult months ahead.”

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David A. Albanese