BRC-KPMG: Black Friday proves a mixed blessing for retailers

Last month’s total UK retail sales rose 1.3% over the previous year, with food the biggest contributor to growth, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) – KPMG retail sales monitor for November.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE said: “Whilst the figure isn’t spectacular, it’s a pretty solid performance in what has been a challenging year for sales in the UK.

“November played host to Black Friday [on November 25], which over the past few years has become one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

“This year’s event was expected to be the biggest yet, and our figures confirm that the week including Black Friday saw non-food sales up around 40% compared with the other weeks of the month.

“However, compared with last year, there was more of a shift of spending from earlier in the month, with sales down on last year in the weeks prior to November 25.”

She continued: “It wasn’t the same story for everyone. Retailers of goods that don’t traditionally benefit from the event, such as clothing, saw weaker Black Friday week sales this year – but made the most of the increased online traffic in the weeks building up to November 25 by offering promotions to capture shoppers browsing for early bargains.”

She concluded: “Overall, consumer spending remains stable, although very much value-driven, with a focus towards products on promotion as shoppers take advantage of the deals of the moment, and retailers strive to offer the best choice and value to their customers.

“With an extra weekend to shop for Christmas this year, nerves will be tested in December as retailers choose their strategies to attract the last minute gift shoppers.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, noted: “November retail sales figures remained positive – but their performance slowed down and was not as strong as the previous month.

“Black Friday deals will have lured would-be shoppers away from the high street in search of bargains online.”

He added: “With the festive season nearly upon us, it seems furniture was on the shopping list for many, with the category performing particularly well.

“The next month will be critical for retailers, providing one final push to improve and maintain sales figures against a backdrop of increasing costs and consumers’ insatiable appetite for discounts.”

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