Shops have seen a surprise slowdown in sales this month as shoppers delay their spending spree for Black Friday, new figures suggest.
A Confederation of British Industry (CBI) survey found 38% of firms had seen an increase in sales compared to the same period a year ago, while 31% had seen a drop-off.
This represents a total sales balance of +7, which is significantly lower than the expected figure of +28.
As the figures only include the first half of November, IHS chief economist Howard Archer suggested the dip was likely a result of consumers gearing up for this week's Black Friday sales.
"In recent years, consumers have become a lot more inclined to time their spending in the run-up to Christmas as to when the best offers are likely to be around," he said.
While sales growth is down, the CBI data highlighted that firms have been recruiting at their strongest rate for 17 years.
Some 38% of firms said they had increased their headcount, while 9% were making reductions, giving a balance of +29%.
CBI economics director Rain Newton-Smith said: "After a stronger showing earlier in the year, retailers will naturally be disappointed by the unexpected slowing in sales growth in November.
"Nevertheless, it is encouraging that retailers have been boosting employment and we expect that trend to continue.
"High street conditions remain competitive, with many sectors still cutting prices to attract customers, but ongoing improvements in wages combined with low inflation should continue to support household spending."