New figures cast doubt over Christmas high street shopping sales

 

Discounts and promotions failed to entice shoppers during November as figures today cast more doubt over high street prospects this Christmas.

Sales volumes fell 0.4% from the previous month, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), with poor sales of computers, watches, jewellery and carpets. Stripping out fuel, the figures were even worse, down 0.7%.

The drop in sales, despite a large number of special offers from retailers desperate to drum up trade, was slightly bigger than the City had expected and brought to an end two months of growth.

The ONS said shoppers still spent 3.3% more than a year earlier as the impact of raw material inflation on shop prices continued to be felt.

British Retail Consortium said it was clear shoppers had approached the Christmas period with great caution, reining in their spending in November and leaving it late to start their Christmas shopping.

Director-general Stephen Robertson said: "The continuing high levels of pre-Christmas discounting and promotions are another symptom of weak demand.

"Retailers know they need to fight hard for every pound that's out there in the hope of attracting business which would otherwise go to their rivals."

Mr Roberton said his members were still hopeful that consumers will look to treat themselves and their families in the final days before Christmas.

Today's poor figures come in the week a Government-commissioned report by retail guru Mary Portas warned that the UK's high streets were under threat from online competition, with some town centres described as "dead".

She said it was too late to save every high street but warned that casualties will continue to increase unless action is taken to tackle the crisis.

The figures showed non-food retailers battled against their biggest monthly fall in sales since February, while food stores saw their largest fall for half a year.

This was despite strong internet demand and a recovery in clothes sales, which had been hit in recent months as the mild autumn weather prompted shoppers to resist buying winter clothes.

The retail sector has fallen victim to a far-reaching consumer spending squeeze, driven by high inflation, muted wage growth and weak confidence.

Major players including Mothercare, HMV and Carpetright have all suffered, with only a small number, such as Sports Direct, bucking the trend.

There are fears that some well known retailers could go under after Christmas as consumers rein back spending amid fears of a recession.

Samuel Tombs, of Capital Economics, said: "Today's official figures confirm that November was a bad month for retailers and will raise concerns that spending will be soft over the crucial festive period.

"What's more, the drop in sales volumes may have been greater had retailers not resorted to another month of discounting."

While it was possible that shoppers were putting off buying gifts until the last minute, he added that "a splurge by consumers in the final weeks before Christmas will only mean that retail spending in early 2012 is even weaker than currently seems likely".

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links