CBI: Distributive Trades survey
Business issues

Distributive Trades survey

The survey is conducted on a monthly and quarterly basis and covers 24 sectors of UK retail, wholesale and motor trade activity. It celebrates its 30th anniversary this July and we would like to thank our loyal survey participants who have responded to the survey over this period. It has been of the highest value to the CBI’s continuing assessment of these vital sectors of the economy


This qualitative business survey has been conducted since July 1983 and is completed by senior executives and owner-proprietors. Both the monthly and the quarterly surveys now include questions relating to sales via the internet.

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This survey is widely reported as the CBI's 'High Street' survey. The results of this survey are circulated in advance of publication for discussion by the CBI Distributive Trades Survey Panel. The panel is made up of senior executives from across the sector and is chaired by Judith McKenna, Chief Operating Officer at Asda.

This survey is conducted on a monthly and quarterly basis with the monthly surveys carried out in the intervening months of January, March, April, June, July, September, October and December. The same sample of firms is used each month and the same degree of individual activity data is prepared.

The survey is classified according to the official Standard Industrial Classification (SIC 2007) and the survey weights are now updated on an annual basis. It provides a wide range of disaggregated sector information across retail, wholesale and motor trades activity.

The quarterly and monthly surveys both cover volume of sales, orders on suppliers, sales for the time of year and stocks, while the quarterly survey also covers imports, selling prices, numbers employed, investment and business situation.  Both monthly and quarterly surveys now contain questions on current and expected internet sales and average prices for internet goods.

The processed responses convert to raw weighted data from which are derived percentage balances. The percentage balance statistic is the figure derived from the difference between the weighted percentage of companies answering in the positive, minus the percentage replying in the negative. This allows a single number with a plus or minus value to thus represent the answer to any question. Since most of the questions refer to changes in the level of a variable, the absolute value of a balance will give a guide to the change in the variable concerned.

All participants receive a free digest of the latest results of the survey.

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