Sales of cards, confectionery and cut flowers in the run-up to St Valentine's Day were partly responsible for 34% of those questioned reporting increased sales, compared with the 27% last month. However, 37% said sales were at the same level as this time last year, whereas the figure for last month was 50%. Of the remainder, most said turnover was down, while a few didn't know. With Easter only six weeks away and the prospect of better weather, 61% expected improved sales over the next three months, compared with 55% last time. Of those who answered, 25% believed sales would remain the same, while 7% thought they would deteriorate. Last month's figures were 38% and 7% respectively. The good news continued on net profit with 23% reporting an upturn, compared with 17% last month. Additionally, 51% reported net margins unchanged, 22% were down and 4% were unsure. This month, 25% will step up business investment, up from 20% last month. Of those who answered the question, 29% said their spending would remain the same, while 39% would cut back. There was more encouraging news in that 98% ­ the highest figure since Business Barometer was launched last April ­ believed their customers see them as price competitive. When questioned about their wholesale supplier, 28% used one cash and carry, 36% used two or three, while 24% used even more. When asked about wholesalers' price, range and stock levels, 7% said very good', down from last month's 18%. However, 76% thought that wholesalers' performance in the three key areas was good and only 12% said it was below expectation. {{GROCER CLUB }}