UK retailers suffer joint-worst October on record: CBI

LONDON (Reuters) – British retailers reported their joint-worst October for sales volumes on record and they expect another difficult time in November as households struggle with the higher cost of living, a Confederation of British Industry survey showed on Thursday.

The CBI’s monthly retail sales balance, a gauge of sales over the year to October, slumped to -36 from -14 in September.

It marked the worst October reading since 2017 which at the time was the lowest reading for the month since records started in 1983.

Official data last week showed retail sales volumes dropped by 0.9% on the month in September, a much bigger decline than the 0.2% fall economists had forecast in a Reuters poll.

The CBI survey, which is not seasonally adjusted, showed retailers cut orders to suppliers this month and expect to do so again in November.

Overall the survey added to a string of downbeat business surveys that point to stagnation, or even a shallow downturn, in economic output.

“As the festive period approaches, the retail sector remains in a perilous position,” said Martin Sartorius, principal economist at the CBI.

“Sales volumes have been falling year-on-year for six months in a row, as cost-of-living concerns and higher interest rates weigh on consumer spending.”

Earlier on Thursday, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales warned that high interest rates were also increasingly affecting companies, with business confidence falling in the third quarter.

More than a fifth of companies surveyed – a record – said bank charges were now a concern.

The Bank of England looks set to keep interest rates on hold next week but also stress that it is far from relaxing its fight against Britain’s high inflation rate, despite growing worries about a recession.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by William Schomberg and William James)