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UK sees solid November retail sales with Black Friday boost

By Jenni Reid

08:23, 7 December 2021

Shoppers walk down a high street in Birmingham city centre
UK retail sales increased by 5% year-on-year in November, though 2020 was a lockdown month – Photo: Alamy

UK retail sales grew above their three-month average last month, indicating a boost from the US import of Black Friday sales, which were seen in stores throughout November. 

Sales increased by 5% year-on-year, an improvement on the 0.9% inched up by last year, when the UK was in lockdown for the majority of the month. That was above the three-month average of 2.2% but below the 12-month average of 9.9%. 

Sales were also 4.1% ahead of 2019, before-the-pandemic figures published by the British Retail Consortium and KPMG showed. 

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, called it a “solid month”.

Hitting the high street

The increase was fuelled by a return to bricks and mortar shops, which saw monthly growth in sales excluding food. 

A 30.5% rise in in-store spending in the three months prior to November offset a 17.9% fall in online sales, the data also showed. In-store spending, however, was down 5.1% on a two-year basis, suggesting continuing struggles for the British high street. 

Food sales fell last month and grew by just 0.1% in the three months to November. 

Susan Barratt, chief executive of retail analysis group IGD, said sales struggled to compete with a lockdown month during which people mostly cooked at home, but the activity “picked up in the second half of the month as shoppers started to ramp up spending in preparation for Christmas and the festive period.”

Wrapping up

Product categories were a mixed bag, with sales up in jewellery/watches, clothing, footwear, health/beauty and furniture, but down in computing, stationery, household appliances, toys/baby equipment and home accessories. 

On the Black Friday effect, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, commented: “The American holiday has now become a month-long affair in the UK, with deals spread over a longer period than ever before. As people prepared their wardrobes for the cold weather this winter, consumers took advantage of discounted clothing, shifting the focus of Black Friday from just electronics and household appliances.”


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“While e-commerce was significantly down on last year when lockdown pushed more consumers online, it still remains almost one-fifth up on pre-pandemic levels, accounting for almost half of all non-food spend,” Dickinson added. 

Christmas fall? 

Pantheon Macroeconomics’ Samuel Tombs said he believed sales would dip in December. 

“Shoppers probably have purchased Christmas gifts earlier than usual this year due to concerns about product availability,” he said, referencing well-publicised global supply chain issues. 

Concern over the Omicron variant would further depress sales, he predicted, while a pessimistic outlook on disposable incomes due to high inflation and tax rises mean retail sales may “merely flatline” in the first half of 2022. 

Supply scramble 

Helen Dickinson agreed that consumers had shopped earlier for gifts this year due to supply concerns and said that “spending patterns suggest that sales could be more spread out than in previous years”. 

“Retailers are doing everything they can to prepare stores, warehouses and deliveries ahead of Christmas, prioritising all the food and gifts that customers will need to enjoy the festive season,” she added. 

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, noted a further concern for post-Christmas spending. 

“Rising costs continue to bite into margins and supply chain issues have impacted the availability of goods, leaving retailers with very little room for the mega discounting events we have seen in previous January sales,” he said.

Read more: German retail sales fall as higher prices weigh

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The difference between trading assets and CFDs
The main difference between CFD trading and trading assets, such as commodities and stocks, is that you don’t own the underlying asset when you trade on a CFD.
You can still benefit if the market moves in your favour, or make a loss if it moves against you. However, with traditional trading you enter a contract to exchange the legal ownership of the individual shares or the commodities for money, and you own this until you sell it again.
CFDs are leveraged products, which means that you only need to deposit a percentage of the full value of the CFD trade in order to open a position. But with traditional trading, you buy the assets for the full amount. In the UK, there is no stamp duty on CFD trading, but there is when you buy stocks, for example.
CFDs attract overnight costs to hold the trades (unless you use 1-1 leverage), which makes them more suited to short-term trading opportunities. Stocks and commodities are more normally bought and held for longer. You might also pay a broker commission or fees when buying and selling assets direct and you’d need somewhere to store them safely.
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