British retail sales rose at their fastest annual rate in more than a decade last month, as the high street was boosted by the “Black Friday” surge.
Sales jumped by 6.4 per cent compared with November last year, official figures yesterday revealed, marking the strongest annual increase since May 2004.
On a monthly basis, sales volumes rose by 1.6 per cent, the biggest increase since a 2.7 per cent boom in December 2013.
There was growth in all types of stores for the first time since last December, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The month-on-month reading was much better than expected and helped sterling spike by a cent against both the dollar and the euro.
Black Friday helped electrical appliance sales increase by 32 per cent compared with the same month last year, though by value they were up 21.5 per cent, showing the impact of heavy discounting in shifting stock.
Maeve Johnston, of Capital Economics, said: “While retail sales volumes in November were boosted by UK retailers’ adoption of the US tradition for Black Friday discounts, the underlying picture looks encouraging too.”
She said that, with the fall in the oil price and pay growth expected to accelerate further ahead of inflation, prospects were bright for retail sales in the new year.
Markit chief economist Chris Williamson said: “Questions will of course be asked as to whether the Black Friday discounts merely mean spending has been brought forward ahead of the usual Christmas spree but at the moment it certainly looks like retail sales are on a firm upward trend.
Ian Geddes, UK head of retail at Deloitte, added: “These are very strong numbers that beat expectations, with growth hitting a ten-year high.
“Looking beyond the headline figures, we need to take into account that for the last two years Black Friday has fallen in the December trading period.”
Year-on-year retail growth was driven by non-food store volume sales up 10.8 per cent with department stores rising 15.5 per cent and textile, clothing and footwear retailers up 4.9 per cent and household goods shops up 16.8 per cent.
Grocers saw a 1.5 per cent year-on-year increase, much smaller than the other sectors but the best figure in seven months, during a tough period for supermarkets.
The ONS data comes just days after it emerged that the Black Friday retail extravaganza turned out to be a damp squib for Scottish stores. Although the number of people taking to Scotland’s high streets rose last month, that did not translate into an increase in sales values, according to the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and KPMG.
Their figures showed that sales in November were 2.6 per cent lower than a year earlier on a like-for-like basis with total sales down by 1.4 per cent.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: “The weather and consumer behaviour is piling pressure on retailers to deliver Christmas cheer. The decline in November sales shows how hard retail has to fight for [a] share of [the] family wallet.”
SUBSCRIBE TO THE SCOTSMAN’S BUSINESS BRIEFING