Retail sales welcome Brexit respite ahead of Christmas

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Retail sales welcome Brexit respite ahead of Christmas BRC Nielsen Retail Sales Monitor Helen Dickinson
The latest Retail Sales Monitor was distorted by the later timing of Black Friday this year. (Image PA Wires)
// Total retail sales were down by 4.4% in November, according to the latest BRC-Nielsen Retail Sales Monitor
// The period covered Oct 27-Nov 23, and numbers were distorted due to the later timing of Black Friday this year
// When factoring in Black Friday, total retail sales grew 0.9% or 0.4% on a like-for-like basis

Shoppers appeared to temporarily brush Brexit concerns to one side in November as the focus shifted to finding Christmas bargains, according to new data.

The latest Retail Sales Monitor from the BRC and KPMG indicated that growth appeared stronger than in previous months amid signs that consumers have put concerns about political uncertainty aside for now to concentrate on the festive season.

Total retail sales were down by 4.4 per cent year-on-year between October 27 and November 23, according to the monitor.


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However, BRC and KPMG said this figure was distorted by the later timing of Black Friday on November 29 this year – which was just outside the period covered in the monitor.

When the figure is adjusted by excluding Black Friday week from the 2018 comparison, UK retail sales actually increased 0.9 per cent on a total basis.

On a like-for-like basis, they were up 0.4 per cent.

“Once the figures are adjusted to take account of the timing of Black Friday, growth appears stronger in November than in previous months,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

“Shoppers appeared ready to take advantage of the great bargains available, both online and on the high street.

“Electronics and clothes both benefited from big discounts, with the recent cold snap adding further urgency to purchases of winter-wear.

“Furthermore, as the spectre of a no-deal Brexit has been pushed back to after Christmas, consumers were more prepared to open their wallets to do a little extra festive spending.”

Dickinson added that the next government must be ready to “hit the ground running” on December 13.

“If the next government wishes to see retail spending remain healthy in 2020 it is essential they clarify our future relationship with the EU as soon as possible,” she said.

KPMG head of UK retail Paul Martin said: “At first glance, November’s decline in like-for-like retail sales of 4.9 per cent will leave retailers reaching for the smelling salts, but context is key.

“If adjusted for the later timing of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, sales are more likely to have increased by a more palatable 0.4 per cent like-for-like.

“Over the course of November, consumers will have held off making purchases in anticipation of discounts to come, despite many retailers spreading out promotions across several days, if not weeks.

“That said, consumers will also have put Brexit and political uncertainty to one side temporarily, focusing on promotions and the upcoming festivities instead.”

With PA Wires

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