Black Friday fails to lure cash-conscious savers into shops in November

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Black Friday sales failed to lure cash-conscious savers onto high streets and into shopping centres during November, as inflation concerns and Brexit uncertainty continued to bite.

Figures from the British Retail Consortium shows that during the month, overall UK retail sales increased by 0.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis since November 2016, having previously increased 0.6 per cent since November 2015.

But in-store sales of non-food items – like many of the goods on sale during the Black Friday weekend – declined by 3.7 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

On a 12-month basis, the total overall decline was 2.2 per cent, which the BRC said was the deepest since its records began in January 2012.

“Black Friday, the big retail event of the month, failed to fundamentally shift underlying trends in spending,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC.

“Food sales were responsible for pretty much all the growth this month, as higher prices continue to absorb more of the weekly shopping budget,” she said.

“Non-food sales – the focus of Black Friday – fell, as the squeeze on household incomes continues to impact discretionary spend.”

Inflation is currently around 3 per cent, fuelled by a dramatic fall in the pound in the aftermath of last year’s Brexit vote. That has ramped up the price of goods. And wage inflation has failed to keep up, squeezing consumers’ wallets.

Paul Martin, head of retail at KPMG, also emphasised that it had been a very difficult year for the retail industry so far. For retailers in this environment, he said “the difference between success and failure [is] akin to … walking a tightrope.”

“Retailers would be wise to focus on differentiation, personalisation and ensuring the availability of their products in the coming weeks,” he said.

Sales fell across almost all non-food categories during the month. Online sales of non-food products grew by 6.5 per cent, but even that number was below both the 3- and 12-month averages of 7.3 per cent and 8 per cent respectively. 

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