Retail sales up in November

Retail sales volumes increased by 1.4 per cent in November compared to the same period of 2020 and 7.2 per cent higher than pre-covid levels, according to the latest ONS figures.

Non-food stores sales volumes rose by 2 per cent last month, led by growth in clothing stores – 2.9 per cent – and other non-food stores – 2.8 per cent – like computer, toy, and jewellery stores. ONS said that retailers also experienced strong trading related to Black Friday and in the lead up to Christmas.

Clothing stores sales volumes in November 2021 were above pre-coronavirus levels for the first time; 3.2 per cent above their level in February 2020.

Food store sales volumes fell by 0.2 per cent last month, despite the fall volumes were still 3.2 per cent above levels in February 2020.

The proportion of retail sales online fell to 26.9 per cent in November 2021, its lowest proportion since March 2020 - 22.6 per cent - and a continuation of a falling trend since its peak in February 2021 when it had 36.8 per cent of the sales share.

“It is clear that plenty of customers used the Black Friday sales as an opportunity to snap up bargains ahead of Christmas,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive, British Retail Consortium (BRC). “This sales event, once limited to the last week in November, has now become a month-long discounting event.”

The chief exec added: “While traditional sales in TVs and other electronics could be found, there has been a clear expansion in clothing and footwear Black Friday discounts, boosting sales growth in these areas. This was bolstered by the cold weather during November, which led many to prepare their wardrobe for the Winter. While e-commerce was down on last year, when lockdown pushed more consumers online, it still remains significantly up on pre-pandemic levels.”

Lynda Petherick, head of retail at Accenture UKI, said: “After an Autumn of underwhelming sales growth, November brought some much-needed festive cheer for retailers, who benefited from early Christmas shoppers aiming to avoid supply chain-related issues. Many retailers extended Black Friday deals throughout the month, helping to smooth out demand and pull sales forward in the run-up to Christmas.

“Unfortunately for retailers, a new wave of the pandemic is just one of several macro challenges facing the sector as we head into 2022, as businesses were already grappling with supply chain disruptions and a tight labour market. With uncertain times ahead, retailers must ensure they’re giving consumers every opportunity to spend with them ahead of January sales, which means proper utilisation of all channels that customers turned to during the pandemic.”

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