Retail sales up 5% in November

Black Friday helped boost retail spending last month, with total sales increasing by 5 per cent against growth of 0.9 per cent in the previous year.

Retail sales

Compared to pre-pandemic levels, total retail sales jumped by 4.1 per cent, according to the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) research.

In the same month, online non-food sales decreased by 17.9 per cent compared to November 2020, when the UK was in lockdown. But in comparison to November 2019, online non-food sales jumped by 18 per cent.

The study also found that across the three-months to November, total in-store sales of non-food surged by 30.5 per cent and by 22.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis. However, in comparison to pre-covid figures, sales declined by 5.1 per cent.

During the same 12-week period, food sales increased by just 0.1 per cent on a total basis and decreased by 0.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

“While Christmas may or may not be getting earlier every year, Black Friday certainly is,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive, BRC. “The American holiday has now become a month-long affair in the UK, with deals spread over a longer period than ever before.”

Dickinson added: “As people prepared their wardrobes for the cold weather this winter, consumers took advantage of discounted clothing, shifting the focus of Black Friday from just electronics and household appliances. While e-commerce was significantly down on last year, when lockdown pushed more consumers online, it still remains almost one-fifth up on pre-pandemic levels, accounting for almost half of all non-food spend.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG said that looking ahead to the new year, rising costs continue to bite into margins and supply chain issues have impacted the availability of goods, which he warned leaves retailers with “very little room” for the usual mega discounting events in the UK's January sales.

“Rising inflation which could top 4 per cent + by the end of this year, is likely to prompt an interest rate rise sooner rather than later, which could dent consumer confidence and spending,” added Martin.

Grocery sales

The latest grocery market share figures from Kantar found that take home grocery sales fell by 3.8 per cent in the 12-weeks to 28 November compared to the same period last year.

However, sales were strong compared to pre-pandemic levels, with grocery spend 7 per cent higher than the same 3-month period of 2019.

The research also revealed that the average price of Christmas dinner for four has risen by 3.4 per cent to £27.48.

Wider grocery inflation rose to 3.2 per cent in the past month, the highest since June 2020. Kantar said that this is yet to have a major impact on shopper behaviour.

“Circumstances are very different this year,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar. “With people back in the office a few days a week and restaurants and cafés open, we’re putting less in our grocery baskets for cooking at home and as a result, the average shop size has shrunk by 8 per cent this month versus last year.”

McKevitt added: “As we count down on our advent calendars to the big day, it’s clear that shoppers want to have some fun and make this Christmas extra special. Price inflation doesn’t seem to be denting their desire to treat themselves and loved ones, and supermarket premium own-label ranges, such as Tesco Finest and Asda Extra Special, are the fastest growing ranges in store. Last December, we saw sales of premium own-label lines hit more than £587 million, and the figure could be even bigger this year.”

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