Belfast Telegraph

Black Friday fails to spark spending frenzy as inflation weighs on UK shoppers

New data shows total non-food sales tumbled 3% in November.

Black Friday 2017
Black Friday 2017

British retailers have reported a drop in non-food sales, as Black Friday offers failed to spur a spending frenzy among inflation-squeezed households.

Figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG showed in-store sales of non-food items dropped 3.7% on a like-for-like basis in the three months to November and 3% in total.

That decline ballooned to 2.2% when accounting for the last 12 months, marking its steepest fall since records began in January 2012.

Online sales of non-food items also disappointed – despite the boom expected from Black Friday offers – with spending up 6.5% but below the three-month and 12-month averages of 7.3% and 8%.

Instead, food was the main driver behind the rise in overall retail sales, which increased 1.5% in total or 0.6% on a like-for-like basis last month.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Black Friday, the big retail event of the month, failed to fundamentally shift underlying trends in spending.

“Food sales were responsible for pretty much all the growth this month as higher prices continue to absorb more of the weekly shopping budget.

“Non-food sales – the focus of Black Friday – fell, as the squeeze on household incomes continues to impact discretionary spend.”

Britons have been suffering the knock-on effects of the Brexit-hit pound, which has made imports more expensive and lifted shelf prices across the country.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation is currently sitting at five-year highs of 3%.

Retail sales

It helped raise food sales 2.8% on a like-for like basis, and 4% in total, pushing it above the 12-month average of 3.4%.

Ms Dickinson said shoppers were tempted “solely by generous promotions” but resisted other items, adding that gaming and wearable tech were among the best performers.

Toy sales, which did well on Black Friday 2016, fell “sharply” in contrast.

“This year’s Black Friday has demonstrated that in such a tough economic environment, consumers have become ever more careful, willing to wait and deploy their discretionary income only when they see an exceptional bargain,” Ms Dickinson said.

“That heralds a challenging festive period ahead for retailers and shoppers alike.

“With current conditions likely to persist into next year, the Government needs to do all it can to support the UK’s consumers, not least by securing a fair Brexit for them in the forthcoming trade negotiations.”

Separate data released by Barclaycard showed that household expenditure contracted in real terms,  as consumers “cautiously” managed their spending amid higher inflation and weak wage growth.

High street spending fell 0.1% in November, while confidence in household finances dropped from 64% in October to 56% last month.

It marked the seventh straight month of negative high street spending.

Online spending rose 10.8% but marked a further slowdown from a recent peak of 15.7% in August.

Barclaycard managing director Paul Lockstone said: “Growth on essentials outstripped expenditure on nice-to-haves for the third month in a row, indicating that shoppers are prioritising carefully.

“Nevertheless, the search for value continues with Brits seeking sales and discounts, making the most of their budget during the festive season.”

Press Association