Adjusted retail sales up in November

On a total basis, UK retail sales decreased by 4.4 per cent in November, against an increase of 0.5 per cent last year, although this was distorted by the later timing of Black Friday this year.

When adjusted for Black Friday, the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG figures showed sales up by 0.9 per cent on a total basis from November 2018.

Again, on a like-for-like basis, sales decreased by 4.9 per cent from last November, but adjusting for Black Friday, sales on this basis rose 0.4 per cent year-on-year.

Over the three months to November, in-store sales of non-food items declined 5.2 per cent on a total and 5.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis, while food sales increased 0.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis and 1.3 per cent on a total basis.

Over the same period, non-food retail sales in the UK decreased by 4.3 per cent on a like-for-like and 4.1 per cent on a total basis, while online sales of non-food products fell by 10.1 per cent in November, against a growth of 2.9 per cent in November 2018.

The non-food online penetration rate was 33.8 per cent last month, although again, this would likely be much higher if Black Friday and Cyber Monday were included.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson: “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 continued, adding: “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.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, commented: “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,” he continued. “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.”

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