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UK retail sales and orders increased in the year to May but the comparison was distorted by the low level of activity during the first national lockdown twelve months ago, the latest Distributive Trades Survey from the Confederation of British Industry showed on Tuesday.
The retail sales balance came in at +18 percent, down from +20 percent, while the order book balance advanced sharply to 22 percent from -1 percent in April.
With the easing of lockdown, retailers were planning to invest in their businesses once again, with investment intentions for the coming 12 months rising to +35 percent, the biggest since February 1994.
However, employment continued to fall sharply in the year to May. The corresponding balance came in at -37 percent versus -44 percent a month ago.
The survey showed that sentiment across the sector remained fairly subdued, with retailers expecting their overall business situation to remain broadly stable over the next three months.
Some retailers have suggested the increase in demand after the initial reopening of non-essential retail in early April was either short-lived or less strong than expected, Ben Jones, a principal economist at the CBI, said.
And non-store sales remain well above seasonal norms, suggesting that some consumers who migrated to online shopping during the pandemic have not fully shifted back to old habits, Jones added.
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