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UK retail sales surge over Black Friday and early December but slowdown expected in 2017

Pre-Christmas spending strong despite Brexit and weakened pound

Ben Chapman
Tuesday 20 December 2016 14:30 GMT
London's Oxford Street Christmas decorations - shops reported strong sales despite economic uncertainty
London's Oxford Street Christmas decorations - shops reported strong sales despite economic uncertainty (Getty)

British retail sales grew at their fastest pace in over a year over the Black Friday weekend and early December, a survey showed on Tuesday.

However the Confederation of British Industry predicted a slowdown in 2017 as the effect of the weak pound pushed up the price of imports, squeezing households’ spending power.

Supermarkets reported their best figures since the start of the year and online buying continued at a “robust” pace, the survey found.

The CBI said sales volumes for the time of the year were “well above average” with 51 per cent of retailers reporting more sales, while 16 per cent said they were down.

A quarter said sales were above average for the season, while just 5 per cent said they were below average. Online sales surged 66 per cent, but with the expectation that they will slow somewhat in the year to January, the poll found.

The CBI said the growth in sales was broad-based, with sales of clothing continuing to perform strongly and grocers reporting their best results since January.

Internet sales volumes continued to rise at a robust pace in the year to December, with the survey balance at its highest since November 2014.

CBI principal economist Ben Jones said: “It's encouraging to see retailers reporting another month of healthy sales growth leading up to the festive season, which rounds off a fairly solid quarter.

“While we still expect to see decent growth in the near term, the pressures on retail activity are likely to increase during 2017, as the impact of sterling's depreciation feeds through.

“With higher inflation beginning to weigh on households' purchasing power, consumption patterns are likely to shift, creating winners and losers across the retail landscape.”

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