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Black Friday fails to boost clothing sales

Non-food retail sales in physical stores saw their steepest decline in more than five years, with Black Friday failing to “fundamentally shift underlying trends in spending”.

The total decline for in-store non-food retail sales on a 12-month basis to 25 November was 2.2%, according to data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG.

This was its deepest level of decline since the BRC-KPMG monitor began to track this in January 2012.

During the three months to 25 November, in-store sales of non-food items declined 3% on a total basis, and 3.7% on a like-for-like basis.

In the same three-month period, non-food retail sales in the UK dropped 1.2% on a like-for-like basis, and 0.6% on a total basis, below a 12-month total average growth of 0%.

The BRC said it was the lowest three-month average for total non-food growth seen since May 2011, excluding Easter distortions.

However, online sales of non-food products grew 6.5% in the four weeks between 29 October and 25 November.

Across the board, like-for-like retail sales in the UK inched up 0.6% from the same period last year, boosted by food sales.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the BRC, said that higher food prices absorbed more of the consumer’s weekly budget, resulting in tighter discretionary spending.

Dickinson said: “Black Friday, the big retail event of the month, failed to fundamentally shift underlying trends in spending. […] Non-food sales - the focus of Black Friday –fell, as the squeeze on household incomes continues to impact discretionary spend.

“That’s not to deny that Black Friday was a significant event. Sales of non-food products that week were over 40% higher than in the other weeks of the month, while it was the biggest week ever for non-food products online.

“However, rather than increasing overall sales, the event has shifted spending away from other parts of the festive period, and focusses shoppers’ attentions online and away from stores.”

She added that this year’s Black Friday has shown that “in such a tough economic environment, consumers have become ever more careful, willing to wait and deploy their discretionary income only when they see an exceptional bargain”, heralding a “challenging festive period” ahead for retailers and shoppers.

Paul Martin, head of retail at KPMG, noted that footwear and health and beauty “filled online baskets thanks to timely promotion”, but other categories did not enjoy a similar amount of sales growth.

He said: “Retailers will be wondering whether the juice is worth the squeeze, with Black Friday sales resulting in a meagre 0.6% uptick in like-for-like growth, when compared to November last year. In what has been a difficult year for the industry, any growth is most welcome, but profitability is what remains paramount.

“Despite Cyber Monday falling outside November’s figures, sales growth was clearly more prominent online, with non-food online sales up 6.4% on last year and penetration rates as high as 27.4%. After previous in-store stampedes, it is clear that retailers are increasingly moving Black Friday away from the high street.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • “However, rather than increasing overall sales, the event has shifted spending away from other parts of the festive period....”

    Of course overall sales aren't increased, because there is only so much money to go around! A two year old could have told you that. That's why Black Friday doesn't work in an economic sense and the wider aim isn't being reported.

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