Retail bonanza as Black Friday shoppers boost high streets

Retail bonanza as Black Friday shoppers boost high streets

Retail sales remained stronger than expected last month as businesses reported a Black Friday sales boost despite pressure on household incomes.

The volume of goods sold in stores and online jumped 1.1 percent from October, the most in seven months, the Office for National Statistics said Thursday. Excluding fuel, the rise was 1.5 per cent, more than three times the 0.4 per cent expected.

The figures suggest consumers are willing to keep spending despite the sharpest rise in inflation for nearly six years, driven by the higher cost of importing goods to the United Kingdom as a effect of the pound's weakness since the Brexit vote.

That led economists to suggest the rise in sales may be temporary: Samuel Tombs, chief United Kingdom economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the surge does "not signal broader consumer strength".

Mr Tombs said Black Friday meant the strength in November retail sales "merely reflected people bringing forward purchases that they otherwise would have made in December or January to November, due to the discounts available".

During the last three months overall, which smooths volatility compared to just one month, the picture is not good.

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Household stores had a particularly strong November with sales up 2.9%, boosting the monthly increase in the quantity bought across all stores to 1.1% on October.

Official data earlier this week showed that consumer price inflation rose to its highest in almost six years at 3.1 percent in November, while the number of people in work fell for a second consecutive month.

Brexit uncertainty, higher interest rates and the squeeze on living standards from rising prices are taking their toll.

This week British electronics retailer Dixons Carphone DC.L said it had enjoyed record sales during November's Black Friday promotion, despite weak demand for mobile phones that hit profits.

The growth comes as average store prices increased by 3.1% compared with November a year ago, with food stores having the largest rise of 3.6% since September 2013.

But home furnishings company Carpetright CPRC.L cut forecasts after warning of fragile consumer confidence.

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