UK retail sales: Online Black Friday bonanza steals limelight away from the high street

Kasmira Jefford
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Retailers Prepare For Christmas Season
UK like-for-like retail sales fell 0.4 per cent in November (Source: Getty)

High street retailers lost out in November, with sales falling into the red, as online retailers enticing shoppers with Black Friday bargains stole the show.

Like-for-like retail sales fell by 0.4 per cent last month compared with November last year, when they had increased 0.9 per cent from the preceding year, according to figures released today by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG.

Total sales were up 0.7 per cent against a 2.2 per cent rise in November last year and below the three-month average of two per cent.

Out of the 12 product categories covered by the index, furniture and home accessories were the only two to report growth, the BRC and KPMG said, driven by Black Friday sales in stores of electrical goods.

In contrast, online sales of non-food products leapt by 11.8 per cent, as shoppers splurged over £1.1bn on everything from televisions to toys and furniture. However, this was shy of last November’s annual rise of 12 per cent.

“Black Friday had an undoubtedly significant impact for the non-food categories, disturbing the build-up to Christmas,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said. Traditionally sales in the last week of November are 25 per cent larger than the first week of the month. However this year they are 50 per cent higher, she added.

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail, KPMG, said November’s relatively flat sales figures are “a reality check” for industry and showed a "minimal loosening" of the purse strings compared with last year as consumers continued to rely on bargains.

It comes after data released on Monday by Visa Europe reported a 4.1 per cent rise in online spending last month compared with a 1.5 per cent decline on the high street.

Meanwhile shops have continued to feel the pain in the aftermath of Black Friday because of online retailers prolonging sales, according to retail analysts Springboard, with footfall dropping by 2.7 per cent in the week to 6 December.

“Leading into Christmas, we expect to see online shopping continue to make dents in footfall activity," Springboard director Diane Wehrle said.

However, on a more positive note, she added: "As most last order dates for online Christmas shopping occur on 18 and 19 of December, it is possible we will see that traditional spike in footfall on the 23 December as consumers head in store for last minute Christmas buying."

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