UK retail sales up 0.6% on like-for-like basis in November versus a year ago, 2.3% on total basis; online sales of non-food products up 16% year-over-year, with online sales comprising record 19.9% of total retail sales: British Retail Consortium

LONDON , December 3, 2013 (press release) – UK retail sales were up 0.6% on a like-for-like basis from November 2012, when they had increased 0.4% on the preceding year. On a total basis, sales were up 2.3%, against a 1.8% increase in November 2012.

The 3-month average total growth was 2.4% against 2.7% for the 12-month period, indicating a recent slowdown.

The fashion categories performed best, due to pent-up demand from the warm Autumn, while Other Non-Food would have seen a decline without online sales.

Online sales of non-food products in the UK grew 16.0% in November versus a year earlier, when they had grown 7.5%. The online penetration rate achieved a new all-time record of 19.9% in November.

Helen Dickinson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said: "After a slow start, November growth picked up in a big way in the final week, when the one month countdown to Christmas coupled with falling temperatures saw many of us making a start on seasonal spending.

"This trend was particularly evident on the non-food front, where clothing and footwear were star performers after a disappointing run of results, thanks to growing interest in winter clothes and partywear. Homewares had another strong showing, especially on the dining and decorative side, as thoughts turned to giving homes a festive refresh.

"Food was a little subdued in comparison, but this can be partly explained by the lower inflation rates of recent months. The signs are that many of us are putting some of what we save on food towards spending in other areas.

"Although slightly down on October, this is a respectable result, which keeps the three-month growth average ahead of the same period in 2012. With things as they currently stand, Christmas spending looks on course to be an improvement on last year, but December will decide it."

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail, KPMG, said: "It remains tough out there on the high street, with sales slow but growth steady. Shoppers are playing a waiting game and delaying purchases for as long as possible in the hope of securing a discount. Quite who will crack first in this war of nerves remains to be seen.

"There is a brutal price war being waged amongst the grocers, with discount brands appealing to cash-strapped consumers and steadily gaining market share. Christmas food sales may well polarise between the luxury treat and the discounted necessity, leaving the middle ground as the battlefield.

"The imminent hike in business rates hangs heavy over retailers' heads. The sector as a whole is desperate to see the Chancellor commit to widescale rates reform in the forthcoming Autumn Statement.

"So here it is… multi-channel Christmas! Festive campaigns are now being played out and only those who have the stock, the systems and the logistics will be able to hold on to margin, whilst others may sell in the Christmas rush but count the cost in the aftermath."

An in-depth version of this report is available to BRC retail members, and subscribers to our Business Information Services.

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