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UK retail sales growth hits highest since April 2019: CBI survey

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LONDON (Reuters) - British retail sales, one of the bright spots of the pandemic-hit economy, grew this month at the fastest rate since April 2019, a survey showed on Thursday.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) monthly retail sales balance rose unexpectedly to +11 in September from -6 in August. A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to a reading of -10.

“The latest results suggest that the recovery in retail spending over the summer months has continued into September, which is welcome news, but retailers appear cautious over the near-term outlook,” said Ben Jones, principal economist at the CBI.

Despite the surge in activity, the CBI said sales were around 8% lower than they would have been without a pandemic. The official measure of retail sales volumes has already surpassed its pre-pandemic peak.

Furniture, DIY and grocery sales have increased sharply but clothing and department store retailers have struggled, the survey showed.

“It’s clear that targeted support measures will be needed to ensure that viable businesses can emerge intact on the other side of this crisis,” Jones said.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak is due to announce new measures to support jobs and businesses later on Thursday.

Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken

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