High street retailers suffered a lacklustre November in the critical build-up to Christmas as shoppers held off on spending ahead of Black Friday, figures show.
In-store sales declined by 1.9% year-on-year in November from an already negative base of minus 2.6%, according to BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker (HSST).
Figures across the month suggest that discounting has become increasingly important for driving consumer spending, with retailers experiencing a lacklustre month before a substantial increase in sales the week of Black Friday.
Black Friday fell a week later this year, distorting year-on-year figures, but BDO said in-store like-for-like sales were down 17.14% on the same week last year – one of the worst weekly results since the “Beast from the East” hit Britain last March.
However, the week of Black Friday provided retailers with a much-needed boost, with in-store and non-store sales soaring by 24% and 28% respectively.
Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “The figures for November are difficult to interpret as a late Black Friday means year-on-year comparisons are not straightforward.
“If we adjust for the impact of Black Friday in 2019, the overall results for November were more respectable with in-store sales jumping by approximately 3% and non-store sales climbing by around 8% year-on-year.
“What is abundantly clear, however, is just how important the promotional event and heavy discounting have become to the high street. Shoppers simply weren’t willing to part with their pounds until hefty price cuts took place, as the steep decline the week before Black Friday illustrates.”
She added: “Given the poor performance of UK retail for the year and the distressing dependence on steep discounting, retailers will be desperately hoping that this December won’t prove, yet again, to be another disastrous month of Christmas trading.”