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Black Friday, the sales event that has become a focus of the pre-Christmas shopping season, was not enough to lift the gloom hanging over the British high street this year, according to new figures.
Retail sales in stores and online rose 0.6 per cent in value terms in November on a like-for-like basis compared with the previous year, according to data collected by the British Retail Consortium and KPMG.
Growth was entirely driven by food purchases while spending elsewhere fell, suggesting that consumers remained cautious against a background of rising prices and stagnant wage growth.
“Black Friday, the big retail event of the month, failed to fundamentally shift underlying trends in spending,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC. “Rather than increasing overall sales, the event has shifted spending away from other parts of the festive period, and focuses shoppers’ attentions online and away from stores,” Ms Dickinson said.
The US practice of offering discounts on the last Friday of November was introduced to Britain by online shopping company Amazon in 2010.
Comparing the three months to the end of November with the same period in 2016, non-food sales fell 1.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis. This is the steepest rate of contraction since May 2011, excluding distortions caused by the timing of Easter.
Barclaycard, which handles about half of the UK’s total payments, said Black Friday itself had generated larger sales than last year, with a 7 per cent increase in the value of sales on the day compared with 2016. But it also said that consumers had shifted their spending away from other days and into the Black Friday sales, rather than buying discounted deals in addition to their regular purchases
“The search for value continues with Brits seeking sales and discounts, making the most of their budget during the festive season — as we saw with a strong performance on Black Friday,” said Paul Lockstone, a managing director at Barclaycard.
Consumer spending has driven the British economy since the Brexit vote as households have borrowed or dipped into savings to fuel their spending. But sales growth has fallen in 2017 with an apparent dip in consumer confidence.
Data published last week showed the GfK consumer confidence index for November fell back to levels last seen in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote in June 2016.
The willingness to buy big-ticket items in particular fell sharply in November, GfK said.