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Black Friday fails to deliver November boost for retailers

Black Friday failed to deliver a much-needed uplift for the high street last month as non-food retailers such as fashion stores struggled, new figures show.

Monthly data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG showed like-for-like sales across the sector rose by a “meagre” 0.6% in November compared to the same period last year.

Even this growth was almost entirely thanks to food sales, where the increasing price of essentials meant shoppers were forced to pay more.

For non-food retail – which includes clothes, toys and furniture – it was another glum period as sales fell and shoppers, while seeking out bargains, left other products on the shelves.

The report said Black Friday did have a big impact on shopping behaviour with non-food sales in the week leading up to the event 40% higher than in other weeks of the month – while it had also been the biggest week ever for non-food products online.

But BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said the discounting event had “failed to fundamentally shift underlying trends in spending”.

She said November’s fall in non-food sales – the focus of Black Friday – came as “the squeeze on household incomes continues to impact discretionary spend”.

“That’s not to deny that Black Friday was a significant event,” she added.

“However, rather than increasing overall sales, the event has shifted spending away from other parts of the festive period, and focussed shoppers’ attentions online and away from stores.”

Ms Dickinson said retailers reported Black Friday shoppers “being tempted solely by generous promotions, but resisting other items”.

She added that gaming, wearable tech and “internet of things” products performed well while toy sales fell sharply compared to a strong performance in 2016.

“This year’s Black Friday has demonstrated that in such a tough economic environment, consumers have become ever more careful, willing to wait and deploy their discretionary income only when they see an exceptional bargain,” Ms Dickinson said.

“That heralds a challenging festive period ahead for retailers and shoppers alike.”

Paul Martin, head of retail at KPMG, said: “Retailers will be wondering whether the juice is worth the squeeze, with Black Friday resulting in a meagre 0.6% uptick in like-for-like growth, when compared to November last year.”

The BRC report is the latest sign of the tough conditions facing retailers as consumers are squeezed by higher inflation, largely caused by the collapse in the pound since the Brexit vote.


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