Black Friday fails to boost high street retail sales

New figures from BDO's monthly High Street Sales Tracker (HSST) recorded a 4.3 per cent drop in year-on-year sales for November.

The drop equalled the largest fall in monthly like-for-like sales this year, and retailers will have to go back to November 2008 to find a more severe monthly dip.

Mixed messages and confusing discounting strategies contributed to a downturn across all sectors, says BDO.

Sales of lifestyle goods were down four per cent and fashion stores dropped 4.9 per cent on this time last year. Homewares saw growth of 5.5 per cent as discounting on furniture persuaded people to buy.

Non-store sales, which represent pure play online retailers and the digital outlets of bricks and mortar stores, grew 15.1 per cent year on year.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said the underlying narrative was more positive for retailers. "The monthly growth of 15.1 per cent is the third lowest ever recorded by BDO’s HSST index for nonstore sales since our records began five years ago, but with this month’s figures being compared to such strong growth in November 2014 (+25.6 per cent), an overall monthly increase greater than 20 per cent would have been a big ask. Furthermore, for Black Friday week itself, nonstore sales growth was 20.1 per cent demonstrating the relative success of online through the Black Friday period."

"Last year’s Black Friday caught many stores off-guard, and panic discounting played havoc with stock levels, leading to erosion in margin and reputational damage when websites crashed and logistics went awry.

"This year retailers were far more organised and tried to create a pre-Christmas shopping event that works for the UK shopper, with many extending offers over a number of days rather than just the Friday. Retailers beefed up their servers and fulfilment centres, and opted for strategic, staggered discounts that were more closely aligned to stock levels.

"The net result was a fall in sales against a high base, but retailers may well have protected their margins. The anecdotal evidence so far is that, whilst there have been some hiccups, fulfilment has been much smoother than last year, which must be seen as a success," she added. "Now Black Friday is out of the way, store-owners will be banking on people having money in their pockets to satisfy pent-up demand in December and spark a pre-Christmas rush of festive shopping to end the year on a high."

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