Retailers have started recruiting for the first time in almost a decade as the high street gears up for a busy summer, according to the CBI.
The survey’s main indicator, the percentage of retailers reporting an increase in the volume of sales minus those reporting a decline, surged from -6 in April to +21 in May – the strongest growth for the sector since April last year.
The strength of the figures took the City by surprise, with a robust showing in grocery, department stores, and furniture and carpet retailers. On recruitment intentions, a balance of +12 expected to be taking on staff in May – the first positive reading since May 2004 and at the fastest pace since February 2003. A balance of +7 expect to continue hiring in June.
Judith McKenna, chair of the CBI distributive trades panel and Asda’s chief operating officer, said: “It’s encouraging to see high-street sales up compared to a year ago, and that business sentiment about the next three months has improved.”
Chris Williamson, economist at Markit, said: “Further growth is likely in June, as retailers’ expectations of sales in the month ahead were the most optimistic since February of last year.”
The strong showing came ahead of the Jubilee and the Olympics, which are expected to boost sales, and followed a sharp drop in inflation in April .
However, sales remain below average for this time of year and economists said financial pressures on households meant the numbers were unlikely to herald a surge in spending.