Retail sales jump 1.3% in November in boost to struggling high street

Earlier Black Friday deals helped push sales up
This year’s Black Friday is on track to be the ‘busiest ever’, Nationwide has said (James Manning/PA)
PA Wire

The struggling high street got a much-needed boost in November, as Black Friday sales helped UK retail sales jump by 1.3%.

The figures come after recent months of poor sales for retailers. Economists had warned that the high street may already be in recession after sales declined in the third quarter, and October sales were flat.

The figures also shocked economists, who had been expecting sales to dip slightly from October.

The Office for National Statistics said a major increase for the increase was Black Friday sales starting earlier. The American sale day, which has come to the UK in recent years, was on 24 November, but the ONS said many retailers had promotions going on throughout the month.

Most of the increase, 0.9 percentage points, came from non-food sales, while 0.4 points were from food.

But Erin Brookes, European retail and consumer lead at Alvarez & Marsal, warned that the higher November sales might just be shopping that was pushed forward from December, meaning sales that month might be lower.

“Although retail sales have improved since October, bringing optimism to the UK high street ahead of Christmas, Black November's true impact remains to be seen. It successfully spurred early Christmas shopping, benefiting all non-food retail. The big question now: Did Black November just pinch sales from December, or will the momentum keep up right through to Christmas?”

“While early discounts may have attracted initial shopper interest, there's a growing concern that they might have merely shifted the usual December spending to November.”

The figures are seasonally adjusted, suggesting the 1.3% increase is more than the usual November boost.

The amount spent was up but more slowly, at 1%, suggesting shoppers were taking advantage of discounts.

Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said: “Retail sales grew strongly in November as heavy Black Friday discounting encouraged shoppers to spend. However, with the three-month trend continuing to fall and overall sales still below pre-pandemic levels, it’s still a challenging time for retailers.

“In the latest month, household goods retailers, clothing shops and department stores all reported robust sales, with computer stores, sports equipment, toy shops and cosmetics stores particularly benefitting from the impact of their Black Friday promotions.

“Supermarket sales ticked up a little, but it was specialist food and drink stores that had a really strong November due to customers stocking up early for Christmas and spending more than we have traditionally seen at this time of year.”