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".
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
General Election 2015: David Cameron catching up in polls – but he badly needs a clear lead
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on
South Africa xenophobic attacks: Shops looted and violence on streets of Johannesburg as foreigners are forced to hide in police stations
Earthworms rain down from skies over Norway, puzzling scientists
18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Russian warships in English Channel 'to conduct anti-aircraft and anti-submarine military drills'
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...
£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...