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UK retailers see sharp fall in sales and mounting job losses, CBI says

Tue, 23rd Feb 2021 11:00

LONDON, Feb 23 (Reuters) - British retail sales fell in the
year to February as stores cut jobs at a rapid rate, with only
supermarkets reporting any growth during the latest COVID-19
lockdown, a survey showed on Thursday.

The Confederation of British Industry's gauge of retail
sales stood at -45, up only slightly from January's eight-month
low of -50. The measure points to falling sales and is below the
consensus forecast of -38 in a Reuters poll of economists.

Retailers' expectations for March - when non-essential shops
will remain closed to the public as part of lockdown measures -
fell to -62, the lowest since the series began in 1983.

In another sign of a changing consumer habits during
lockdown, the survey's gauge of internet retail sales hit a new
record high.

"With lockdown measures still in place, trading conditions
remain extremely difficult for retailers," said Ben Jones,
principal economist at the CBI.

"Record growth in internet shopping suggests that
retailers' investments in on-line platforms and
click-and-collect services may be paying off, but the re-opening
of the sector can't come soon enough to protect jobs and breathe
life back into the sector."

Job losses among retailers accelerated according to a
quarterly question in the survey. For the distribution sector as
a whole, which includes wholesalers and car dealers, employment
fell at a record rate, the CBI survey showed.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken)

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