The uncertain economic outlook continues to weigh on UK high street spending, with new figures today (28 November) showing that year-on-year retail sales volumes fell for the sixth month in a row in November, and that retailers reduced their headcount at the fastest rate in two years. 

According to the latest distributive trades survey from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), a balance of -19% of retailers saw the volume of sales fall in the year to November. This represents the fastest decline in sales since March 2009 (-44%).

The decline in sales volumes was driven by pressure on department stores (-49%) and clothing (-27%).

Employment across the sector in the year to November fell at the fastest rate for two years (-27%). The survey showed that 13% of retailers increased their headcount, while 40% reduced numbers, giving a balance of -27%.

"Retailers remain hard-pressed, even as we get closer to Christmas," said CBI chief economic adviser Ian McCafferty. "The relatively mild weather this autumn has hit clothing stores particularly hard, and retail sales are down year-on-year for the sixth month in a row.

"Retailers may be hoping that shoppers will loosen their purse strings in the run-up to Christmas, but consumers are likely to remain cautious about spending given the uncertain economic outlook."

Price inflation on the high street remained well above average, with a balance of +56% of firms saying average selling prices rose in November, and is expected to stay at similar levels in December (+54%).