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High Street suffers after 'damp squib' Black Friday

By Josie Clarke

High street sales took a significant tumble last month, reflecting "damp squib" Black Friday discounting, figures have shown.

Sales fell 4.3% compared to the same month 12 months ago, according to the latest figures from accountancy and business advisory firm BDO.

The drop equalled the largest fall in monthly like-for-like sales this year, and retailers would have to look back to November 2008 to find a more severe monthly dip beyond this year.

Mixed messages and confused discounting strategies contributed to a downturn across all sectors, with sales of lifestyle goods down 4% and fashion stores - which were already reeling from the mild autumn weather - seeing sales fall 4.9% on this time last year.

Black Friday analysts have noted that shoppers shunned the high street to spend £1.1bn online, or £763,000 every minute.

But BDO claimed that even online sales were affected by the spending slowdown, with non-store sales growing by just 15.1% year-on-year.

The company's head of retail and wholesale, Sophie Michael, said the figures painted a "sorry picture" of Christmas trading so far, but said retailers still had cause to be positive.

She added: "Last year's Black Friday caught many stores off-guard, and panic discounting played havoc with stock levels, leading to erosion in margin and reputational damage when websites crashed and logistics went awry.

"This year, retailers were far more organised and tried to create a pre-Christmas shopping event that works for the UK shopper, with many extending offers over a number of days rather than just the Friday.

"The net result was a fall in sales against a high base, but retailers may well have protected their margins.

"The anecdotal evidence so far is that while there have been some hiccups, fulfilment has been much smoother than last year."

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