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UK Retail Sales Fall Moderately In March: CBI

British retailers reported a moderate fall in sales in March but sales are expected to plunge next month, according to a survey from the Confederation of British Industry, released Wednesday.

The retail sales balance fell to -3 percent from +1 percent in February, the Distributive Trends Survey showed.

The results of the survey indicated that households are stockpiling groceries in response to the spread of the coronavirus and the introduction of social distancing, while they are putting off purchases of non-essential items.

Looking ahead, retail sales volumes are expected to fall sharply in the year to April, with retailers more pessimistic than at any time since April 2009. The corresponding balance came in at -26 percent.

"These are extraordinary times for the retail sector," Ben Jones, CBI principal economist, said.

"Grocers are seeing a temporary increase in demand because of coronavirus. But many other retailers are seriously suffering as households put off non-essential purchases and social distancing keeps people away from the High Street," Jones added.

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