Shoppers in £7.9bn spree as Christmas comes early


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Britons spent a collective £7.9bn every week last month as price slashing inspired by “Black Friday” helped drive the biggest shopping frenzy for more than a decade, official figures showed yesterday.

Retail data showed a 1.6 per cent monthly jump in sales as shoppers  rushed online and to stores, even triggering riots in the hunt for bargains.

The spree meant retail sales rose 6.4 per cent in the year to November – the biggest jump since May 2004.

On average, shoppers were spending £7.9bn every week – £400m more than in November last year and £800m more than in October.

The imported Black Friday phenomenon  sent the value of internet sales soaring 12.9 per cent on last year. On average, shoppers spent around £3bn a week online over the month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Household goods stores were among the biggest winner, with sales of electrical items up 32 per cent on last year – the biggest annual rise since ONS records began.

The Dixons Carphone boss Sebastian James said this week  that Black Friday was the chain’s “biggest day ever”.

Department store sales also rocketed at their fastest annual pace since 1996, the ONS figures showed.

November’s figures were flattered as in previous years Black Friday sales have fallen into December’s figures. But the data underlined the easing pressure on the UK consumer’s wallet, with average store prices down 2 per cent over the year in the biggest drop since August 2002.

Plunging oil prices and a supermarket price war have driven the official CPI measure of inflation to a 12-year low of 1 per cent, while wage growth is finally outstripping the cost of living.

November’s 1.6 per cent sales rise was  far higher than the 0.3 per cent growth pencilled in by experts, who  hinted that sales might simply have been dragged forward  from December.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at financial data company Markit, said: “Questions will of course be asked as to whether the Black Friday discounts merely mean spending has been brought forward ahead of the usual Christmas spree. But at the moment it certainly looks like retail sales are on a firm upward trend.

“The outlook for consumer spending is certainly one of the best that we’ve seen since the recession struck.

“Wages are finally showing signs of a meaningful pick-up, and are at last growing faster than inflation.”