November retail sales slow as Black Friday shoppers turned to digital

Retail sales in the UK slowed down in November as consumers turned to e-commerce across the Black Friday weekend.

That is according to the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, which found UK retail sales decreased 0.4% on a like-for-like basis from the same month last year, when they had increased 0.9% on the preceding year.

On a total basis, sales were up 0.7% against a 2.2% rise in November 2014 – total growth was below the three-month average of 2% and the 12-month average of 1.7%.

On a three-month basis, total non-food sales were up 3.5%, ahead of their twelve-month average of 2.9%.

Meanwhile, The jewellery & watches category continued to grow last month but experienced its second-lowest growth year-to-date. The BRC that this could probably be explained by the fact that it faced a very strong comparable from November 2014.

Despite this, online sales of non-food products in the UK grew 11.8% in November compared with the same month last year, when they had grown 12%. The Non-Food online penetration rate was 22.4% – up 2.1% from November 2014 and the highest on record.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the BRC, said: “With growth of 0.7%, November was quite a slow month overall for retail. The picture was somewhat mixed when we look across the different categories, with half experiencing growth and the other half seeing a decline.

“Black Friday had an undoubtedly significant impact for the non-food categories, disturbing the build-up to Christmas: traditionally, sales in the last week of November were 25% larger than in the first week of the month.

“Last year already, those sales were inflated by the popularity of Black Friday deals and this year, they were 50% larger than in the first week of November.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, added that November’s relatively flat sales figures were a “reality check” for the retail sector, with consumers holding off for a Black Friday bargain pitted against retailers determined to hold onto their hard-earned margins.

He said: “The result was that, despite the hype around Black Friday, there was minimal loosening of the family purse strings compared to last year and retailers, facing significant cost increases next year, will be striving to wean UK shoppers off the discounting drug.

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