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UK retail sales slow in November, cluster around Black Friday: BRC

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Growth in British retail sales slowed in November after a bumper October as shoppers waited for big discounts around 'Black Friday' at the end of the month, industry figures showed on Tuesday.

[LONDON] Growth in British retail sales slowed in November after a bumper October as shoppers waited for big discounts around 'Black Friday' at the end of the month, industry figures showed on Tuesday.

The British Retail Consortium said total spending rose by a year-on-year rate of 1.3 per cent, slower than October's 2.4 per cent although a little stronger than the average for 2016.

Robust growth in consumer spending has been one of the main things sustaining Britain's economy since June's vote to leave the European Union. But many retailers expect to have to raise prices next year, probably squeezing consumer demand.

Like-for-like sales - which exclude new store openings, and are a focus for company analysts - saw annual growth of just 0.6 per cent, down from 1.7 per cent in October, the BRC said.

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BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said spending was generally stable but retailers were relying on promotions to win over consumers.

Separate figures from payments company Barclaycard, covering the four weeks to Nov 19, showed rapid growth in overall consumer spending, up 5.1 per cent on a year earlier, the second-fastest growth rate since the data series began in Oct 2011.

The highest fuel prices so far this year pushed up spending at petrol stations - which is not included in the BRC survey - and other areas of spending such as travel and entertainment outpaced growth at retailers.

"Though there is little visible evidence of households yet being forced to decide between filling up the car or eating out with friends... they may need to look more carefully at how they allocate their cash once Christmas is out of the way," Barclaycard managing director Paul Lockstone said.

The BRC said sales were down on a year earlier in the weeks before Black Friday on Nov 25, when many stores - especially those selling electrical goods - now copy the US practice of heavy discounts the day after the American Thanksgiving holiday.

By contrast, the Confederation of British Industry last week reported the fastest retail sales growth in a year in the four weeks to Nov 14.

The week of Black Friday itself saw a 40 per cent jump in spending compared with earlier in the month, the BRC said. Retailer John Lewis has previously said its department stores enjoyed record sales on Nov 25.

The BRC figures covered the four weeks to Nov 26.

Online sales in November grew 10.9 per cent on a year earlier, and now account for a record 27.6 per cent of total non-food retail spending in Britain, the BRC said.

REUTERS

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