Merchants and DIY sales stabilise

Published:  28 April, 2010

LONDON: Sales by builders' merchants and retail hardware and DIY sales have stabilised after three months of sharp falls, according to the CBI.

Its latest Distributive Trades Survey reported that after heavy sales falls in March, volumes stabilised for builders' merchants and durable household goods wholesalers.

In the retail sector the report said that 43% of retailers said that sales volumes in early April were higher than they were over the same period in 2009, while 30% said they were lower.

Andy Clarke, chairman of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel, and chief operating officer of Asda, said: "Spring has landed on the high street with some modest but welcome sales growth, and that improvement is expected to carry on into early May.

"Grocers and shoe shops fared reasonably well in April, and the lift in the housing market seems to have fed through to sales of white goods and furniture.

"However, the UK economy remains in a fragile place, and last week's higher unemployment figures will have unsettled many shoppers," Mr Clarke said.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said the CBI's data showed that consumer spending has become slightly stronger since the recession ended. The outlook for 2010 remains troubled.

"Households still face very challenging conditions, notably including high unemployment and still falling employment, low earnings growth, high debt levels, January's VAT hike and high petrol prices," Mr Archer warned. He believes that consumers will also rein in their spending in anticipation of higher taxes after the General Election.

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