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Retail sales hold up despite the weather

Despite the extremely cold weather shoppers have clearly been determined to spend, according to the Retail Sales figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) for November, which found volumes 0.3 per cent higher than in October. By Glynn Davis


Retail sales hold up despite the weather

The rise pushed the year-on-year retail sales back into positive territory with sales by volume 1.1 per cent higher in November than the same month a year ago. Richard Lowe, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays Corporate, said: “November sales have been solid despite the weather’s best attempts to keep shoppers from the high street. With heavy snow causing chaos across much of the country during the last week of November an increasing number of consumers turned to the internet to do their Christmas shop.”

Although the headline numbers are positive news for the industry it has to be viewed against the disappointing statistic that sales in November were below the recovery seen in October, when an increase in volumes was revised upwards to 0.7 per cent higher than the previous month.

The ONS figures showed that for predominantly food stores the value of sales was 3.3 per cent higher than a year ago and for predominantly non-food stores the value level of sales was 3.7 per cent higher than a year ago.

This growth is undoubtedly down to the efforts of retailers to keep on driving up sales and this will continue over the next few weeks in the run-up to Christmas, according to Lowe: “In the final weeks of the year the stores will be pulling out all the stops. Big ticket items will be promoted heavily in a bid to convince consumers to splash out before the impending VAT rise. This weekend, the last full weekend before Christmas, will be key with retailers hoping shoppers are willing to brave the cold with forecasts of more snow on the way.”

Much of the growth in November has been driven by seasonal goods with the sales of toys, sporting goods, watches and jewellery showing particular strength. More of these goods were bought online than ever before – down to the combination of the fact online purchases are increasingly undertaken by all demographics and the poor weather, which may have deterred some people from visiting the high street.

The value of non-store retailing (including the internet) was 6.4 per cent higher than 12 months ago, which takes online sales to a record 10.5 per cent of total sales by value (excluding fuel). This compares with the 7.9 per cent share of the total sales that it accounted for last year. Weekly sales during November reached £660 million, according to the ONS.


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