Black Friday boost for retail sales

Squeezed consumers boosted retail sales last month as they snapped up bargains during Black Friday

Squeezed consumers boosted retail sales last month as they snapped up bargains during Black Friday Isabel Infantes PA

British shoppers pounced on electrical goods and other Black Friday bargains last month, giving an unexpectedly big boost to retail sales, which contrasted with earlier signs of a subdued start to Christmas spending.

The figures contrast with a subdued start to Christmas spending after a weak October that had led economists to conclude that consumers were feeling the squeeze from rising inflation, which hit its highest level in almost six years last month, at a time when wages are failing to keep up.

Month-on-month, sales rose by 1.1% in November from October, which was ahead of analysts' forecasts for 0.4% growth.

"Given the continued resilience of consumer sentiment, we're optimistic that Christmas shopping sales in December will hold up".

"The risk from inflation to real spending growth has been exaggerated".

"Household goods stores had a good November, with a number of businesses saying that Black Friday promotions boosted sales".

With three of the last four November retail sales prints from the ONS have risen in excess of 1% and from 2014 to 2016 the level of seasonally adjusted sales in the month have been above the 12-month average, the statistical authority was felt to be struggling to adjust to the effects of the new seasonal sales regime.

Store prices, meanwhile, increased by 3.1% year-on-year last month, with price increases across all store types, in particular food stores had the largest price increase of 3.6% since September 2013.

Looking at the past three months as a whole, which smoothes out monthly volatility, the picture is gloomier. On a year ago, volumes ex-fuel were up 1.5% versus the 0.2% consensus estimate. Food sales rose just 0.6 percent, as smaller stores claimed cold weather kept buyers away. The consensus was for a 0.3% rise on the year.

Black Friday is an import from the U.S., where it takes place on the day after Thanksgiving and is regarded as the start of the Christmas shopping period.

But home furnishings company Carpetright CPRC.L cut forecasts after warning of fragile consumer confidence.

Sales in November were up 1.1 per cent on October, with household goods growing faster at 2.9 per cent.

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