Not so much a bang but a little sparkle from November sales

Bonfire night and Black Friday sales seemed to hold up the November Retail Sales, but food price inflation continues to hit consumers' pockets, says one retail expert.

  • The key findings from the Retail Statistics showed:
  • The underlying pattern in the retail industry in November 2017, as suggested by the three-month on three-month measure remains one of growth, with the quantity bought increasing by 0.8%.
  • When compared with October 2017, the quantity bought in November 2017 increased by 1.1%, with household goods stores showing strong growth at 2.9%.
  • Retailers' feedback suggests that "Black Friday" events contributed to the monthly increase in household goods stores, with electrical household appliances making the largest contribution to the growth.
  • The year-on-year growth rate shows the quantity bought increased by 1.6%.
  • Total average store prices increased by 3.1% in November 2017 when compared with the same period last year, with price increases across all store types, in particular food stores had the largest price increase of 3.6% since September 2013.

Phil Mullis, Partner and Head of Retail and Wholesale at top-20 UK accountancy firm, Wilkins Kennedy, said: "Black Friday sales in particular propped up the Retail Sales figures for November, but no doubt other sales events such as Bonfire Night helped too.

"Food is a big proportion of total retail sales every month, usually at around 40% and with November 2017 food price inflation at 3.6% consumers spent 3.5% more than November 2016. However, the higher slice consumers spend on food means less of a cut for non-food purchases and this is a concern that has been noted by retailers and their plans for 2018.

"There is also a concern that Black Friday is cannibalising Christmas sales. The event is not just one day but often a series of events held over more than a week in some cases. This may give a great kick off to the Christmas selling season but it could end up affecting over all Christmas sales as consumers bring their purchases forward. The cannier retailers are those that make their Black Friday event product specific i.e. available just today or this week only, rather than using it as a discount-fest to shift product lines, boosting sales but biting chunks out of margin.

"It will be interesting to see how retail sales even out to the end of the year and if the recent cold snap we've had in December will affect footfall but drive online instead."

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