Retail sales rise … and physical wins out over online

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Black Friday and early Christmas shopping has resulted in a rise in retail sales last month, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Retail sales volumes rose by 1.4 per cent in November 2021 and were 7.2 per cent higher than their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Clothing stores fared particularly well and have exceeded their prepandemic level for the first time. Computer, toy and jewellery retailers also reported robust sales this month.”

She added: “With more customers choosing to visit the high street and retail parks, the proportion of online sales continued on a downward trend, to their lowest level since March 2020.”

  • Non-food stores sales volumes rose by 2 per cent in November 2021, because of growth in clothing stores (2.9 per cent) and other non-food stores (2.8 per cent) such as computer stores, toy stores and jewellery stores, with retailers noting strong trading related to Black Friday and in the lead up to Christmas.
  • Clothing stores sales volumes in November 2021 were above pre-coronavirus levels for the first time; 3.2 per cent above their level in February 2020.
  • Automotive fuel sales volumes rose by 3.7 per cent in November 2021 following some disruption to supplies in the previous two months; volumes were 1.9 per cent below their February 2020 levels.
  • Food store sales volumes fell by 0.2 per cent in November 2021; despite the fall in November, volumes were 3.2 per cent above levels in February 2020.
  • The proportion of retail sales online fell to 26.9 per cent in November 2021, its lowest proportion since March 2020 (22.6 per cent) and a continuation of a falling trend since its peak in February 2021 (36.8 per cent).

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, added: “It is clear that plenty of customers used the Black Friday sales as an opportunity to snap up bargains ahead of Christmas. This sales event, once limited to the last week in November, has now become a month-long discounting event. While traditional sales in TVs and other electronics could be found, there has been a clear expansion in clothing and footwear Black Friday discounts, boosting sales growth in these areas. This was bolstered by the cold weather during November, which led many to prepare their wardrobe for the Winter. While e-commerce was down on last year, when lockdown pushed more consumers online, it still remains significantly up on pre-pandemic levels.

“Retailers focus is now squarely in the final preparations for Christmas. Rising Covid cases will be a big concern for many customers, however retail staffing is currently at manageable levels. There has already been a gargantuan effort to ensure that essential food and gifts are ready for the festive season, despite ongoing challenges in the supply chain. We remain confident it will be a great Christmas for consumers, and retailers are pulling out the stops to keep staff and customers as safe as possible during these difficult times.”