Shoppers continued to behave cautiously in November although sales did increase year-on-year, figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed.
Excluding fuel, the total value of sales rose by 2.5 per cent year-on-year in November 2012, failing to match inflation of 2.7 per cent in the same period.
These figures are consistent with the Consumer Price Index, which remained at 2.7 per cent in November, and with figures released last week by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
BRC Director General, Helen Dickinson, commented: “This confirms our own findings that Christmas shopping was slow out of the starting blocks in November, as pressure on budgets and fears about the future left many of us reluctant to commit to spending early.
“But it’s the finish which matters, and the signs are that sales and shopper numbers have been building at a respectable pace throughout December, especially in recent weeks.
“With Christmas falling on a Tuesday this year this weekend will be the critical one – I’m expecting a last-minute rush but overall in sales terms it will be neither a bumper Christmas nor a disaster.”
The ONS figures also revealed that the proportion of people shopping online increased in November 2012, both year-on-year and month-on-month.
The proportion of online sales increased by an estimated 1.4 per cent month-on-month and 0.5 per cent year-on-year, and the average weekly online spend increased from around £658 million in November 2011 to around £711 million in November 2012.
Commenting on the figures and next year’s outlook, Lloyds Bank’s Managing Director of Retail, Keith Richardson, said: “Most retailers have got their Christmas strategy right with items being put on sale selectively and at the last possible moment.
“Enough has been done to entice shoppers through the door while maximising profits and the mood among most major retailers is buoyant.
“We predict the usual post-Christmas hangover and flat sales in the first quarter of next year, and factors such as the loss of universal child benefit and higher energy costs will no doubt have an impact.
“But we remain optimistic about 2013, retailers are now generally running slicker operations with more focus on trans-seasonal goods and a more efficient supply chain.”