Retailers looking for the traditional Bank Holiday flood of shoppers dashing to the high street were disappointed. According to figures from the Retail FootFall Index, last year’s August Bank Holiday weekend saw a year-on-year increase of 16.4 per cent partly due to the timing of the Bank Holiday in 2003, however this year, shopper levels are likely to have been lower or flat at best the company says. Retailers fear business is set to get worse before it gets better; the CBI yesterday warned as new figures reveal the miserable summer on the High Street continues unabated.

One in five retailers (20%) say the overall business outlook – including sales volume, price, cost and supply issues – will deteriorate over the next quarter compared to just over a tenth (13%) who say it will improve, a balance of minus seven per cent. It is the first time for seven years more have been despondent about the future than hopeful and only the second time since 1992. The new figures are published today (Tuesday) in the CBI’s Quarterly Distributive Trades Survey.

The volume of sales in August compared to a year ago was down for almost half of retailers (45%) while only a quarter (27%) reported a rise. This balance of minus 18 per cent is despite heavy price discounting and longer than normal summer sales and follows similar figures for June and July. The underlying annual sales trend, measured by the three month moving average which cancels out short-term blips, is the weakest in the 22 year history of the survey.

The gloom looks set to continue into next month at least, with a third (34%) believing volume will be worse than 12 months ago and just 19 per cent forecasting an increase, a balance of minus 15 per cent.