Bricks-and-mortar retail endured “worst November in 3 years”

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November retail sales

Bricks-and-mortar retailers witnessed the worst November in three years despite Black Friday efforts, according to new figures.

Data from the monthly High Street Sales Tracker, compiled by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO, showed that in-store sales declined by 2.6 per cent year-on-year last month.

The slump follows a two per cent year-on-year drop in October and marks the 10th month in a row of negative in-store growth.

Black Friday week itself provided little relief for high street, with brick-and-mortar retail sales remaining flat at 0.4 per cent – suggesting that shoppers have become jaded by the discounting campaigns carried out by various retailers.

Meanwhile, BDO found that online retail had a bumper month, with 18.2 per cent growth year-on-year in November.

This also compares to the 17.5 per cent growth recorded in the same month last year.

When it came to Black Friday week on its own, online retail sales enjoyed the best weekly performance in 2018 and the strongest Black Fridat week since 2014, thanks to a 30.8 per cent year-on-year surge in sales.

BDO head of retail Sophie Michael warned that changing shopping habits and the contrast between bricks-and-mortar and online will define this year’s crucial festive trading period.

“Retailers will be very disappointed with the flat in-store sales in November,” she said.

“They will be deeply concerned to enter the crucial Christmas trading period off the back of another poor month.

She added: “Looking at Black Friday 2018, we can see two prominent trends: firstly that consumers are holding off spending until the discounting starts; and secondly, when they do purchase, it’s through online channels and not on the high street.”

In BDO’s Retail Forecast Report for 2019, Michael wrote: “For retailers to stay relevant, they have to develop a seamless omnichannel approach to their marketing and communication to shoppers, utilising the number of touch points during the purchasing process to engage with consumers and create loyalty.”

She added: “Last year, high street retailers suffered their fifth successive December of negative growth.

“Given the poor performance of UK retail for the year, they will be desperately hoping that this December won’t mark yet again another poor month of Christmas trading.”

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