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UK retail sales heat up as customers rush to purchase winter warmers

UK retail sales People carry shopping bags as they walk past Christmas themed shop displays on Regent Street in London, December 4, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
UK retail sales: Black Friday discounts also boosted sales of home furnishings as many households traded big nights out for budget nights in. Photo: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

UK retail sales increased by 4.2% in November as customers were quick to purchase winter warmers, such as coats, hot water bottles, and hooded blankets.

Black Friday discounts also boosted sales of home furnishings as many households traded big nights out for budget nights in.

This compared to a 5.0% rise in November 2021, but sat above both the three-month average and 12-month average growths of 2.6%.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG on Tuesday, sales increased 4.1% on a like-for-like basis from the year before, when they had increased by 1.8%.

Read more: UK retail sales rebound but remain below pre-COVID levels

Household appliances, footwear and furniture saw positive sales growth both in store and online as consumers sought out deals on designer items and started to prepare for Christmas.

However, categories such as toys, computing and baby equipment continued their negative growth.

The data covered the four weeks from 30 October to 26 November.

In the three months to November, food sales increased 5.8% on a total basis and 5.5% on a like-for-like basis. This is above the 12-month total average growth of 2.2%, the data showed.

But shopper trust in the industry to maintain good availability of food and groceries dropped to its lowest ever level in November. The decline may have been influenced by the well-publicised availability challenges in eggs and poultry, the BRC said.

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Non-food retail sales came in flat at 0.0% on a total basis and decreased 0.4% on a like-for-like basis as consumers reined in their spending on non-essential items amid the sharp cost of living crisis.

Meanwhile, in-store sales of non-food items increased 2.2% on a total basis and 1.6% on a like-for-like basis since November 2021. Online non-food sales decreased by 0.4% in November, against a decline of 17.9% in November 2021.

“Sales picked up as Black Friday discounting marked the beginning of the festive shopping season. However, sales growth remained far below current inflation, suggesting volumes continued to be down on last year,” Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said.

“Despite facing huge cost pressures, retailers are doing all they can to keep prices affordable for all their customers. But, the cost of living crisis means many families might dial back their festive plans. Yet, with three weeks to go, there is still plenty of time for the Christmas cheer to bring sales home this Christmas.”

Read more: How to manage Christmas debts

Paul Martin, UK head of retail, said: “As we enter the last crucial few weeks of the year, retailers will be hoping that consumers continue to focus on the Christmas feel good factor. For some struggling retailers hit hard as consumer confidence and spending declines, and costs continue to rise, the next few weeks could be critical to their survival.

“Retailers are well aware that in the current environment it is a battle to attract and retain every customer.

“Given the economic headwinds for the year ahead, with consumer behaviour expected to evolve further as shoppers look to trade down and purchase less, understanding and meeting customer needs will be mission critical for retailers, and it’s a job that keeps getting harder.”

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