Hopes of a festive boost for retailers are being dashed by slowing sales on the nation’s high streets, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

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The CBI’s distributive trade survey has revealed that during the first two weeks to December 36pc of retailers reported an increase in sales volumes compared to last year, with 17pc reporting a decrease – a balance of +19pc.

But in comparison to the last two months of the survey, the sales volumes have slowed with November and October reporting a balance of +33pc and +30pc.

However, leading businesses in Norwich have painted a mixed picture with the director of John Lewis reporting increased sales 8.8pc, while shops in the Castle Mall are offering pre-Christmas discounts to entice shoppers.

Richard Tunnicliffe, Director of CBI, said: “This month’s survey hasn’t quite provided the Christmas cheer that retailers anticipated, with sales growth falling short of expectations.

“Clearly, weak spending power and uncertainty over the economic outlook are likely to remain key risks to the retail sector in 2013.”

In contrast to slowing sales growth, orders placed by retailers upon suppliers rose to +13pc at a similar pace to last month year-on-year of +16pc.

However, sales growth is expected to continue losing steam next month, with retailers expecting a slower rise once again in the year to January of +10pc, while orders placed on suppliers are expected to be flat in the coming month at 0pc.

But the director of John Lewis, Richard Marks, believes their extension in Norwich has helped them to buck the trend.

He said: “Sales are up 8.8pc on last year and John Lewis Norwich had its best week ever (ending December 15).

“The shop was busy from start to the end of the week with the icing on the cake a bumper Saturday’s trade up 24pc on last year.”

Judith McKenna, Chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel and Asda Chief Operating Officer, said: “This latest data covers the period to the middle of December and we should take heart that sales on the high street have held up during the early crucial Christmas shopping period.

“However, on-going economic fragility is maintaining the squeeze on household incomes, and it’s notable that sales are below par for the festive season.

“So while families are making their budget stretch as far as possible for the Christmas season, the Christmas spending spirit can only go so far. In reality, sales growth has actually slowed since the Autumn and retailers are expecting a further slowdown in the New Year.”

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