UK retail sales rebound in run-up to Christmas - CBI

LONDON Wed Dec 18, 2013 6:00am EST

LONDON Dec 18 (Reuters) - British retail sales rebounded in the run-up to Christmas after weakness in the two previous months, the Confederation of British Industry said on Wednesday.

The CBI distributive trades survey's retail sales balance surged to +34 in December, matching September's 15-month high, after stagnating at +1 in November. Economists polled by Reuters had expected an increase to +10.

Orders placed with suppliers rose particularly strongly, with this component increasing to +25 from +1, its highest in more than a year, and retailers said they expected further strong sales in January.

"After a disappointing couple of months, sales volumes in December recovered their sparkle, beating retailers' expectations," said Barry Williams, who chairs the CBI survey panel and is a senior executive at Asda, Wal-Mart's British supermarket chain.

"Customers have clearly held off spending through the autumn and we're only now seeing them start to hit the stores," he added.

Clothing sales in particular had been weak in October and November due to milder than usual weather, which dissuaded shoppers from buying new winter clothes.

British retail sales volumes grew 1.8 percent on the year in October according to official data released last month. The Office for National Statistics releases its November retail sales data on Thursday.

The CBI survey was conducted between Nov. 27 and Dec. 11, and had responses from 62 retail chains.

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