UK retailers toil in March but see better times ahead: CBI

FILE PHOTO: People are seen walking past closed shops in Jermyn Street, a year since the first British lockdown began due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, London, Britain, March 23, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - British retailers have endured another difficult month in March but are optimistic of a sales surge in April, when COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are due to be lifted partially, a survey showed on Thursday.

The Confederation of British Industry’s monthly gauge of retail sales was steady at -45 in March. A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to a small improvement to -37.

However, expectations for sales next month turned positive for the first time since December 2019.

“Retailers are looking forward to April with a sense of optimism, given the potential re-opening of the sector across the UK,” Ben Jones, principal economist at the CBI, said.

“Expectations point to a fairly muted recovery, especially when considering that base effects will tend to flatter annual growth next month, given the historic drop in sales in April 2020.”

Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by William Schomberg