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The beleaguered UK retail sector got a month of respite in November, according to the latest monthly survey of the industry by the Confederation of British Industry.

Almost 40 per cent of retailers surveyed said sales volumes were higher than a year ago this month, with a similar number optimistic that volumes would pick up again next month. Only 13 per cent said sales were down in November, with even fewer expecting a drop in December.

Price growth was also strong. At least three quarters of those surveyed said they had seen average selling prices increase over the past 12 months rather than decrease — the most widespread uptick in retailers’ prices reported since 1991.

But while the vast majority expected the annual rise in selling prices to continue through December, retailers were more glum about the trading conditions they face in the coming months.

More said they expect their overall business situation to deteriorate slightly over the next three months than think it will improve — the fourth consecutive quarter of falling sentiment, according to the CBI.

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist, said that while she welcomed good news for retailers, they still faced trouble ahead, noting:

It’s great to see retail sales rebound this month after a big dip, but let’s be clear: our high streets are not out of the woods. Ahead of the crucial run up to Christmas, the weaker pound has pushed up prices and retailers are nervous about business conditions and are trimming their workforces.

The relief from the rising burden of business rates in Chancellor’s Budget will be welcome on the UK’s high streets….but the job is not done, now is the time for swift delivery.

(Photo: Bloomberg)

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