U.K. retail sales were unchanged in March from a year earlier and stores expect conditions to worsen next month amid rising unemployment and higher energy prices, the Confederation of British Industry said.
The gauge of annual sales growth rose to zero from minus 2 in February, the London-based business lobby said in a report today. A measure of expected sales for April was at minus 4, indicating retailers expect a decline.
“It is encouraging that sales on the high street are stabilizing,” said Judith McKenna, chief operating officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT)’s Asda unit and chair of the CBI’s distributive trades panel. “However, the general retail outlook remains tough” as the squeeze on consumers “continues to bite, despite a recent fall in inflation, with wage growth modest and fuel costs remaining high.”
Nationwide Building Society said last week that consumer confidence declined in February as rising joblessness and weak economic growth made Britons more pessimistic about the future. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said last week that Britain will escape another recession, while reiterating his plans to reduce the budget deficit.
Within the monthly survey, the gauge of orders placed on suppliers remained at minus 4 in March, while the volume of stocks rose to 22 from 7 the previous month, the CBI said.
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