Britain’s retailers benefited from a November sales boost fuelled by Black Friday discounts and colder weather as consumers bought winter coats, hot water bottles and hooded blankets, according to industry data.
In its latest snapshot of high street and online spending, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said sales growth picked up last month compared with October, despite mounting concern over the cost of living crisis.
Total sales rose by 4.2% in November compared with the same month a year ago, up from an annual growth rate of 1.6% in October. However, the BRC warned much of the rise was down to sky-high inflation pushing up the value of goods being sold, masking weaker sales volumes.
Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the BRC, said: “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.”
As the weather began to turn, retailers reported growth in sales of winter clothes, while Black Friday boosted sales of home furnishings as many households traded nights out for budget nights in.
Separate figures from Barclaycard showed the colder weather led more households to switch their heating on for the first time this season, causing spending on utilities to grow 40.1% – above the 36% growth rate in October. Spending on takeaways and at discount stores also rose.
The credit card provider, which processes nearly half of all card transactions in Britain, said consumers were growing more concerned about the impact of rising household bills on their personal finances.
While data from Barclaycard payments showed transaction volumes on Black Friday were up compared with 2021, it said this growth may not carry over into the traditional Christmas shopping season.
According to a survey of more than 2,000 adults, as many as half plan to cut down their spending this year, with 57% planning to reduce spending on gifts, and 45% cutting back on festive activities and socialising.
The figures come with inflation above 11% as households struggle with high energy bills and the rising cost of a weekly shop, with food and non-alcoholic drink inflation at the highest levels since 1977. Economists expect soaring living costs will lead consumers to tighten their belts, contributing to the economy falling into recession.
Paul Martin, UK head of retail at the accountancy firm KPMG, said sales categories such as toys, computing and baby equipment had fallen for several months in a row in a performance that even the start of the festive season had failed to reverse.
“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,” he said.