Retailers have warned they could struggle to meet demand and fill shelves by the fall after months of supply stagnation, after July inventory levels plummeted to their second straight month of lows.
CBI’s monthly survey of leading companies in the retail and wholesale sector revealed that consumption surges in the UK’s busy streets this month have increased their ability to procure essential goods.
Retail sales grew at a much higher rate than the long-term average through July, and orders grew at the fastest rate since December 2010, according to CBI. Sales and orders are expected to continue growing at a strong pace in the coming months.
However, according to a survey of 124 companies, including 51 retailers, from June 25 to July 15, the inventory level as a percentage of expected sales in the distribution sector recorded the lowest level for two consecutive months since 1983.
Thousands of companies have reported supply difficulties due to disruptions in UK ports due to Brexit, bureaucratic formats and Covid-19 restrictions. Supply to warehouses and stores has also been put on hold due to a manpower shortage due to the pandemic demand for employees to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, particularly among road transporters and delivery drivers.
Retail, wholesale and auto trade sectors all reported relative stock prices as too low, and the situation is expected to get worse in August, the report said.
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According to the retailer’s balance of responses, July sales increased 23%, but declined slightly from 25% in June. Orders grew at the fastest pace since December 2010, up 49% from +30% in June. Balance is the weighted difference between the percentage of retailers reporting an increase and the percentage of retailers reporting a decrease.
Internet sales, which soared during the pandemic, stagnated after falling to the slowest growth rate of 2% in July from 21% in June, CBI said. Analysts expected online sales growth to cool as people return to downtown after the lockdown.
CBI chief economist Ben Jones said demand could be more stable, but operational problems are exacerbated. Relative inventory levels are at record lows and are expected to drop further, while the number one concern for many companies today is a supply chain-wide labor shortage as employees self-quarantine.
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