HIgh street retailers see flat November as shoppers hold on for Black Friday deals

November 2014 UK retail sales decreased 0.4 per cent on a like-for-like basis from November 2014, when they had increased 0.9 per cent from the preceding year, according to British Retail Consortium/KPMG.

On a total basis, sales were up 0.7 per cent, against a 2.2 per cent rise in November 2014. Adjusted for the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index deflation, total growth was 2.2 per cent.

Total growth was below the three-month average of 2.0 per cent and the 12-month average of 1.7 per cent. Half of the RSM categories showed year-on-year growth on a total basis but, excluding online sales, only two categories showed growth in stores, furniture and home accessories.

Total food sales grew 0.1 per cent over the three months to November and 0.3 per cent over the 12 months, but declined for the month. On a three-month basis, total onn-food sales were up 3.5 per cent, ahead of their 12-month average of 2.9 per cent.

Online sales of non-food products in the UK grew 11.8 per cent in November versus a year earlier, when they had grown 12.0 per cent. The non-food online penetration rate was 22.4 per cent, up 2.1 percentage point fromNovember 2014 and the highest on record.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "With growth of 0.7 per cent, November was quite a slow month overall for retail. Furniture and the home categories were the main drivers of growth for the month, with large and small electrical appliances doing particularly well, driven by Black Friday sales.

"Black Friday had an undoubtedly significant impact for the non-food categories, disturbing the build-up to Christmas: traditionally, sales in the last week of November were 25 per cent larger than in the first week of the month. Last year already, those sales were inflated by the popularity of Black Friday deals and this year, they were 50 per cent larger than in the first week of November.

"As consumers and retailers continue to adapt to the changing patterns of omni-channel shopping, where the lines between channels become less and less relevant, this build-up to Christmas is one of the hardest to read in years. The conversion of people's higher disposable income into retail sales shouldn’t be taken for granted."

KPMG retail head David McCorquodale said: "November’s relatively flat sales figures are a reality check for the retail sector with consumers holding off for a Black Friday bargain pitted against retailers determined to hold onto their hard-earned margins. The result was that, despite the hype around Black Friday, there was minimal loosening of the family purse strings compared to last year and retailers, facing significant cost increases next year, will be striving to wean UK shoppers off the discounting drug.

"Detailed examination of November trading shows a slowdown in most categories as consumers held off purchases in the hopes of a deluge of Black Friday discounts. Whilst many retailers participated, categories which saw the biggest uplift on the day were the electricals ones where, I suspect, the discounting pain was borne by supplier and retailer alike. In clothing and footwear, brands tended to hold their nerve to retain margins.

Barclaycard's consumer spending data for November, found that consumer spending in the first part of November fell to an 18-month low as households cut back in anticipation of Black Friday at the end of the month.

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