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UK retail sales continue to fall, but the decline slows

By Philip Smith

Stock levels highest on record due to Brexit uncertainty after sixth month of decline

British retail sales are still falling, but the monthly decline is slowing, according to a report from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

While the decline was the gentlest for six months in October, uncertainty about Brexit contributed to the highest stock levels on record, the survey showed.

The CBI monthly index of reported sales showed sales rising to -10 from -16 in September. Analysts had predicted the index would drop to -20.

The decline marks the sixth month of falling sales, the longest such period of decline since the global financial crisis a decade ago, the CBI said.

Rain Newton-Smith, the CBI’s chief economist, said: “The sector is struggling with ongoing digital disruption, layered on top of cost pressures from a weak pound and the cumulative burden of an outdated business rates regime.

“Retailers have also had to contend with the looming Brexit deadline... Not knowing where we will be on November 1st is adding more strain to an already beleaguered sector.”

The period of decline could be over soon. The CBI survey, looking to the month ahead, indicated there could be a small positive net balance of +1 for November. This would be the first positive figure since June and is probably helped by the approach of Christmas.

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