Retailers face “nerve-wracking run-up to Christmas”


Online sales were at an “all time high” during November despite total sales throughout the month falling flat in a “nerve-wracking run-up to Christmas” for retailers.

According to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, online sales accounted for 33.8 per cent of the total in the four weeks to November 24, up from 32.6 a year earlier.

Although total sales grew just 0.5 per cent year-on-year, the slowest growth since April, online non-food sales jumped 2.9 per cent.

This compared to a 1.9 per cent drop in in-store non-food sales, while total like-for-like sales across all categories dipped 0.5 per cent.

“This month cemented Black Friday as an increasingly digital event, with a record one in every three pounds of non-food purchases made online during the month,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

“Black Friday week itself was bigger than last year, but did little to lift the overall pace of spending, with sales growth in November falling to its lowest rate in seven months.

“Weak consumer demand and falling confidence mean that retailers are in for a nerve-wracking run-up to Christmas.

“Conditions in the industry have been particularly tough since the vote to leave the EU in 2016 and the current uncertainty has only compounded the challenges.”

KPMG retail director Sue Richardson added: “As we’ve come to expect, online sales did fare better but when compared to the previous year’s growth, the performance wasn’t stellar.

“Sales growth and profitability don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, especially against a backdrop of deep discounting, so in this environment a laser-like focus on margin and cost base is absolutely essential.”

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