High street sales worst for six months

Retailers have been put under even more pressure to draw in customers over the festive season after the high street registered the worst performance in six months in November, according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium.

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Like-for-like sales fell 1.6% compared to November last year, while total sales increased only 0.7%, demonstrating that despite Christmas approaching, shoppers are still keeping a tight rein on spending.

Food sales during the three months to the end of November were up 1.5%, largely driven by promotions, but non-food sales fell 2.1% as weak consumer confidence affected sales of big-ticket items and mild weather hit winter clothing sales.

Non-store sales growth, which includes online, was the weakest since March increasing 8.6% compared to November last year when growth was double that.

December appears to be off to a slow start as footfall during the first weekend of the month was 4.1% down on the same weekend last year, according to the latest Experian FootFall Retail index.

Retail sales growth is expected to be flat in December, according to Deloitte which also predicts that more than £9bn, or 50%, of sales this Christmas will be influenced by the internet and more than 20% of Christmas sales will be multi-channel.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC says: “Consumers are not quite in the Christmas mindset yet, although stores are working to generate much-needed sales with high levels of festive discounting. Retailers hope that customers who’ve managed their finances carefully in recent months will still treat themselves and their families in December, unhampered by the severe weather which disrupted shopping twelve months ago.

“The Autumn Statement’s bleak assessment of the UK recovery is the latest in a sequence of poor economic news which includes falling sales, rising unemployment and stubbornly high inflation. The Chancellor offered some modest assistance but, this close to Christmas, more concrete progress on measures to inspire confidence in consumers and businesses is badly needed.”

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