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UK Retail Recovery Continues Despite Low Stocks

The UK retail sector is continuing to recover despite suffering the most severe shortage of stocks in decades, new survey data has shown.

According to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Distributive Trades Survey for October, 30 per cent more retailers reported a rise in sales than recorded a fall. This positive balance was up from 11 per cent in September.

In addition, the positive balance of expectations for November was 35 per cent, up from the October figure of 29 per cent, meaning a growing number of retailers have an upbeat view of the future.

This positive trend as the UK emerges from the pandemic comes despite the shortages of many goods on the shelves due to the lack of lorry drivers and its impact on supplies. The CBI survey found the shortage of stock supplies to be at its worst since 1985.

Even so, CBI principal economist Ben Jones said the recovery of the retail sector, like that of the economy as a whole, has been “pretty bumpy”, due to factors such as supply issues and the ongoing impact of high Covid cases.

“Disruption to supply chains, combined with staff shortages and uncertain public health conditions mean retailers are finding it difficult to plan for the winter ahead,” he added.

Despite this, there may be good reasons for retailers to pay attention to their store maintenance needs as the Christmas shopping approaches.

The fear that more consumers might revert to using online methods instead of visiting stores could be prompted by an expectation of a large ‘winter wave’ of Covid cases, but new models suggest the reverse may happen, following an ‘exit wave’ in the wake of the lifting of most restrictions during the summer.

These projections, the most optimistic of which is one by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, suggest the UK will actually see cases plunging from the recent high of almost 50,000 a day, due to a combination of short-term immunity among younger people who have had the virus recently and booster jabs for over-50s.