Retail Sales Surges in April Helps Boost Brit Economy

02 May 2003

According to the Confederation of British Industry, sunny weather and the later Easter holiday helped retail sales in April to grow at their fastest rate for five months.

Thirty-seven per cent of retailers reported higher year-on-year sales for the month while only 27% a decline – a balance of plus 10% compared with the March figure of minus 13%.

But the CBI ‘s political agenda demands it play down optimism over the latest data, insisting that underlying sales growth remains weak and demanding a further cut in interest rates.

Industrially, too, there was encouraging news. April’s manufacturing index from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply rose to 48.3, up from March's revised figure of 46.3, while the new orders index jumped from 45.2 to 49.8 - its highest level since December.

Pointing to the factors underlying the rise, the CIPS opined: “With an end to much of the fighting, and the greatly reduced uncertainty surrounding issues such as oil prices, panel firms reported a more stable situation for demand in April.”

And ever eager for a quotable quote from those paragons of probity and precision, investment bank analysts, the media switched to autopilot and consulted the first entrail-raker to answer his or her phone. In this instance HSBC’s John Butler.

“Although the index still points to contraction, the flavour of the survey was markedly more upbeat than the previous few months,” said the expert. “[It] is still not great but it at least suggests that much of the doom and gloom that had built up following last month's survey was misplaced.”

[Rocket science, huh?]

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff