Retail sales down 3.8% for November

Retail sales down 3.8% for November
Online retail rose to account for almost a third of retail sales during November, according to the latest results from The ONS.
// Retail sales volumes impacted by second national lockdown
// Clothing sector is hardest-hit with 19% fall in sales month-on-month
// Shoppers thought to have brought Christmas spending forward to November after 2.4% rise in year-on-year sales

The latest figures from The Office for National Statistics found retail sales volumes fell 3.8 per cent in November compared to October.

The loss came as many stores ceased trading after a second national lockdown for England forced the closure of non-essential retailers.

Clothing sales fell 19 per cent for November, while food stores and household good stores were the only sectors to grow their monthly sales, rising 3.1 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively.

READ MORE: November retail sales hindered by Covid restrictions

Despite the closures, retail sales grew 2.4 per cent year-on-year, which the ONS suggested could be a result of customers bringing forward their Christmas spending.

Online retail rose to account for 31.4 per cent of total retail, up from 28.6 per cent in November and achieving a 74.7 per cent increase in overall growth when compared with November 2019.

“November showed a strong rate of decline following a period of recovery in the aftermath of the initial coronavirus (COVID-19) impact… feedback from retailers stated that these enforced store closures affected turnover despite an increase in online sales during the period,” The ONS said on Friday.

Considering retailer’s separate sectors, The ONS said anecdotal evidence from retailers “suggested that food sales have been boosted in November by the restrictions to the hospitality industry and a shift in consumer habits”, with an increase in click and collect users boosting sales in the sector.

Household goods sales were 15.2 per cent higher than in pre-coronavirus circumstances of February 2020, with feedback cited by The ONS from retailers suggesting earlier purchases of Christmas products and home DIY goods in preparation for the festive season had boosted turnover.

Clothing retailers reported the sharpest decline in sales volumes in November with a monthly fall of 19 per cent.

Retailers commented that despite extensive online Black Friday promotions, the enforced closure of stores had affected sales.

“The sector has struggled to recover from the initial declines witnessed immediately after the first set of national lockdown measures, and remains 30.5 per cent below February’s level,” The ONS said.

“November’s sales highlight once again the polarising effect of Covid-19 on retail,” Lloyds Bank head of retail and consumer Aled Patchett said in light of the results.

“Subsectors like grocery and homeware perform well – and should be expected to have a strong finish to the year – while others including big-name high street brands fall foul of significantly reduced footfall,” Patchett added.

“If there’s one thing these results emphatically illustrate it’s the volatile times we live in now,” RSM retail director Jacqui Baker commented.

“November was a double-edged sword for retailers. The most lucrative trading event of the year came coupled with a new national lockdown in England. Analysts’ predictions of the best Black Friday on record went swiftly out the window and the market were left uncertain of the impact on consumer confidence.

“Newly adopted behaviours for online shopping continued to prop up the market with the proportion of online penetration stepping back up in November. With the end of the rent moratorium and business rates relief drawing near, what the sector needs now is acknowledgement of the broken model for high street retailers,” Baker added.

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