An expected boost in sales volume from the shopping hype of Black Friday was not enough to ensure a significant growth in terms of value in November. Numbers published by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed that UK sales value grew by its slowest rate since November 2011.
The high discounts in relation to Black Friday and Cyber Monday dragged down retail inflation, but it was expected that the increase in volume would offset that movement. Total food sales fell in November, although they rose in the quarter.
"The weakness of the BRC survey's headline numbers is explained partly by the intensification of retail deflation in November," said Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at research consultancy Pantheon Macroeconomics. "Nonetheless, generous discounting over the Black Friday sales period does not seem to have provided the hoped-for boost to volumes."
However, Tombs also underlined the fact that consumer confidence had fallen for the third month in a row, while the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) showed in its distributives trades survey was only up seven points in November, against a 20-point increase in October.
"This slowdown is likely to continue in 2016 as inflation snaps back, job growth fades and welfare cuts intensify," Tombs said. "The government's austerity measures are expected to weigh down retail spending across the country."
The BRC's second method of calculating retail sales, on a like-for-like basis, which excludes any changes in floor space, showed a fall of 0.4% in November. The method is preferred by some economists and paints a gloomy picture against the 0.9% jump in November 2014.
Online non-food sales growth was milder than in November 2014, but the 11.8% year-on-year surge was in stark contrast with the disappointing overall sales. The non-food online penetration rate was 22.4%, the highest number ever.