RETAIL sales surged ahead of expectations in November as shoppers embraced Black Friday deals in the run-up to Christmas.
The Office for National Statistics said the quantity bought in the retail industry increased by 1.7 per cent on October while year-on-year sales registered a five per cent increase. The figures have far exceeded expectations, with economists having pencilled in a 0.5 per cent month-on-month rise and 3.1 per cent increase year-on-year.
Although Black Friday spending on the high street was considered to be subdued this year, a number of retailers including 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 per cent.
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.” Despite the strong figures, analysts urged caution.
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.
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.”