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High Street

Black Friday boosts consumer spending in November

UK retail sales grew in the month of November, according to the latest report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

When factoring in Black Friday, like-for-like sales grew by 0.9%, up from a decline of 4.9% when excluding the sales event from monthly figures.

For the period of 27 October to 23 November, year-on-year sales dropped by 4.4% compared to the year prior.

However, this figure did not account for the boost of Black Friday, which fell on 29 November this year.

The latest findings from the BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor shows that consumer activity was strong despite increased political uncertainty in the approach to the election and Brexit.

BRC chief executive, Helen Dickinson OBE, said: “Once the figures are adjusted to take account of the timing of Black Friday, growth appears stronger in November than in previous months.

“Shoppers appeared ready to take advantage of the great bargains available, both online and on the high street. Electronics and clothes both benefited from big discounts, with the recent cold snap adding further urgency to purchases of winter-wear.” 

She added: “Furthermore, as the spectre of a No Deal Brexit has been pushed back to after Christmas, consumers were more prepared to open their wallets to a little extra festive spending.”

She urged the government to “hit the ground running” after the election if they wish for retail spending to remain healthy in the coming year. 

Dickson added: “If consumers are to avoid price rises, and reduced availability, politicians must put frictionless, tariff-free trade at the top of their new agenda.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said: “At first glance, November’s decline in like-for-like retail sales of -4.9% will leave retailers reaching for the smelling salts, but context is key.

“If adjusted for the later timing of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, sales are more likely to have increased by a more palatable 0.4% like-for-like.”

He added: “Over the course of November, consumers will have held off making purchases in anticipation of discounts to come, despite many retailers spreading out promotions across several days, if not weeks. 

“That said, consumers will also have put Brexit and political uncertainty to one side temporarily, focussing on promotions and the upcoming festivities instead.

“The key question will be whether demand can rebound enough to make up for several disappointing months of trading this year. Grocers are likely to have weathered the storm better than most but Black Friday is key to many non-food categories.

“Retailers have their foot to the floor during this critical trading period, but it won’t be until Christmas trading reports land in January that we’ll truly know whether their strategies have proved fruitful.”

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