High street sales edge up in November but retailers sweat over big item sales

Julian Harris
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HIGH street sales were up in November, official figures showed yesterday.

Sales rose 1.1 per cent on the previous year, and have now increased for every month since February, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The news came as John Lewis announced a sales boost of 12 per cent so far this week, compared to the same time last year.

“At this time of year we prepare for an influx of ‘last-minute men’ who dash into beauty and lingerie to buy their gifts,” said the chain’s director of selling operations David Barford.

However, the ONS revealed that some retailers experienced a decline in sales for November. Sales in household goods stores were down 5.7 per cent. And the overall rise is “soft,” according to Simon Hayes of Barclays Capital Research. “With real pay in decline, the outlook for household spending remains weak,” he said.

Consumer confidence dropped to its lowest level since March 2009, according to a Nationwide survey released today.

The survey is bad news for retailers hoping to sell big ticket items ahead of the VAT rise on 4 January.

“People appear less likely to make major purchases,” said Nationwide’s Martin Gahbauer. “The number of consumers viewing this as a good time to buy fell below 25 per cent for the first time in over two years.”