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UK retail sales dropped sharply in January, with the CBI Distributive Trades survey falling to a net reading of -50, its weakest reading since May, after having been broadly stable in December. Sales are expected to decrease at a similar rate (-47) in February. Orders placed upon suppliers declined significantly as well to -45 and firms expect another decline in February. The CBI distributive sales survey was conducted between December 22 and January 14, where health outcomes deteriorated and the UK went into the third lockdown.
Online sales eased slightly in January, while the ratio of stocks to expected sales increased. The survey noted that grocers and furniture firms saw flat sales, while most other sub-sectors reported monthly declines. Meanwhile, wholesalers and motor traders noted a decline in sales in the year to January.
"With the lockdown likely to remain in place in the near-term, retailers expect this weakness to continue. It is therefore vital that government support continues in parallel to restrictions," CBI principle economist Ben Jones said.