Retailers report record high stock levels as Brexit deadline looms – CBI

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Retailers’ stock levels in relation to expected sales were at their highest on record in October 2019, according to the latest monthly CBI Distributive Trends Survey, against the backdrop of a continuing decline in sales.

This has been the largest stock spike in adequacy since the CBI survey began in 1983, and follows from another peak stock level, back in August 2019.

The CBI said it was likely that the proximity of Christmas, and the ongoing turbulence of the Brexit debate, has driven stock levels up and widened the gap between unsold goods and actual demand.

Retail sales volumes and orders both fell in the year to October for the sixth consecutive month, and although retailers expect sales to stabilise in November, they also expect sharper falls to follow. Internet sales, on the other hand, are expected to grow more broadly over to coming months.

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist, said: “Retailers have now endured six months of falling sales, the longest period of decline since the financial crisis.

“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with ongoing digital disruption, layered on top of cost pressures from a weak pound and the cumulative burden of an outdated business rates regime.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, which has partly driven a record spike in stocks.”

By Michelle Mooney

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