RTTNews - UK retail sales fell for the fourth month in a row in August, but retailers are no longer feeling so pessimistic about the outlook for their business situation in the coming months, the latest distributive trades survey by the Confederation of British Industry revealed Thursday.

The survey, conducted between July 29 and August 12 among 166 firms, showed that 34% of retailers are of the view that their sales rose in the year to August, while 51% said they dropped. The resulting balance was minus 16%, down from minus 15% in July, but better than CBI's expectations for a reading of minus 23%.

Further, the survey revealed that retailers expect a similar fall in sales for September, with the balance figure at minus 14%.

These results round off a slow and disappointing summer for many in the high street, and the picture is not set to improve in September, said Andy Clarke, Chairman of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel.

However, throughout the year retailers have become less and less negative about the business outlook, and that reflects increasing signs of stability in the wider economy, Clarke added.

After an 18-month period of distinctly negative business sentiment, retailers' pessimism about the outlook for their general business situation eased notably in August.

The balance of firms expecting a deterioration over the next three months is very modest, at minus 2%, the least negative since November 2007, when the balance was minus 1%.

Earlier this month, official data showed that UK retail sales in July registered its biggest annual increase since May 2008 reinforcing the perception that recession is slowly leaving the economy. Retail sales rose 3.3% in July from a year earlier.

Retailers cut their orders placed with suppliers at a faster rate than in the last two months, resulting in a balance of minus 22%. A similar decline is expected for September with a balance of minus 24%.

A balance of 41% of retailers reported reduction in their staff levels, which is more negative than in May, when the balance was minus 29%. A further decline in staff numbers is expected for September.

The rate of increase in retail prices picked up from the three year-low seen in May and retailers now expect prices to rise at a faster rate in September.

Sales volumes in the wholesale sector fell steeply over the year to August, with a balance of 48% reporting a fall, which was much sharper than in July. An even steeper decline is expected in September, the CBI said.

Motor traders' sales fell moderately in the year to August. The sector expects sales volumes to grow tentatively in September for the first time since May 2008, while expectations about the business situation are positive for the first time since February 2008.

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