‘Black Friday’ drives bigger-than-expected rise in November retail sales

Shoppers in Oxford Street, London, on Black Friday.
Photo: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire

Shoppers in Oxford Street, London, on Black Friday. Photo: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Retail sales surged significantly ahead of expectations in November as shoppers embraced Black Friday deals in the run-up to Christmas, official figures suggest.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the volume of retail sales increased by 1.7% compared with October and were 5% up on a year earlier.

The figures far exceeded expectations, with economists having pencilled in a 0.5% month-on-month rise and 3.1% year-on-year growth.

Although Black Friday spending on the high street was considered to be subdued this year, a number of major retailers including mobile phone retailer Dixons Carphone, John Lewis and Amazon all reported record sales.

Dixons Carphone hailed the one-day shopping bonanza as a “great start” to the Christmas season after it increased the number of Black Friday promotional deals by 30% compared to last year.

ONS head of retail sales Melanie Richard said: “A continued fall in prices as well as promotions in the run-up to Christmas have helped to boost the amount shoppers bought in November, both on the high street and online, with the biggest increases coming from department stores and household goods retailers.”

However, the ONS said average retail prices, including petrol stations, were down 3.3% on November last year, the 17th consecutive month of year-on-year falls.

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The amount spent in the retail industry increased by 1.4% compared with November last year, and also by 1.4% compared with October. The value of online sales increased by 12.7% on a year ago and by 4.9% compared with October.

However, despite the strong figures, analysts cautioned that retailers would be waiting until the end of the Christmas season before drawing firm conclusions.

Ian Gilmartin, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays, said: “Typically we look to year-on-year statistics for an accurate picture of the state of play in the retail industry, but the evolution of Black Friday and its developing impact on the pattern of sales in November and throughout the Christmas trading period means that, on this occasion, we have to treat the figures with some caution.

“As we enter the final week before the big day, retailers will rightly be pulling out all the stops to encourage shoppers through their doors and on to their websites for those crucial last-minute purchases.”

Keith Richardson, managing director retail sector at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “These figures may look strong, and Black Friday certainly saw a lot of money being spent at the end of November, but it is still too early to say whether it was really a success for retailers.

“Looking ahead, these figures don’t bode well for the crucial Christmas period. Consumers haven’t had it so good since last time fuel prices dropped below £1 a litre - which should be the recipe for a bumper year - but they have also learned to be more savvy since then.

“Shoppers show no sign of giving up their diet of discounts and, while volume of sales might increase, deflationary prices mean sales values may drop this Christmas.”