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Wednesday, May 5, 1999 Published at 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK

Business: The Economy

Shop spending edges up

Retailers are looking forward to better times ahead

UK retail sales continued to rise in April - but could have been better according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

In what is generally taken as an early sign of an emerging recovery in consumer confidence, the CBI's latest survey shows 41% of retailers reported sales increases, while 26% reported declines.

Although the overall balance between optimistic and pessimistic shopkeepers was little changed from the previous month, the CBI said the three month average suggested sales were brighter.

[ image: Spending up slightly]
Spending up slightly
Alastair Eperon, chairman of the CBI's distributive trades survey panel, said the slight increase in sales volumes for the second month running is an "encouraging sign" for retailers and indicates that consumers are beginning to spend again.

But he added that with pockets of the retail sector still reporting sales down on a year ago, "the momentum needs to be maintained".

"We believe that with inflationary pressures weak and uncertainty about economic recovery this year, a quarter percentage interest rate cut would be a prudent move by the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee and should help to encourage consumers back into the shops," said Mr Eperon.

Retailers of footwear and leather goods, specialist foods and off-licences reported "strong" increases in sales volumes compared with last year, although booksellers, confectioners and furniture and carpet stores reported a downturn.

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