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Online sales up by 12.9% as Black Friday effect sees shoppers buy more than they have for a decade

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The Black Friday effect saw online sales grew by 12.9% in November, compared to the previous year, while total retail sales grew at their fastest rate for more than a decade, according to official figures out today. The Office for National Statistics’ Retail Sales report for the month estimated ecommerce accounted for 11.5% of all retail sales.

Average weekly spending online rose to £753.4m, up by 12.9% compared to November 2013. “This increase,” said the ONS report, “is in part due to Black Friday which was not included in the November 2013 data.”

Overall, the report suggested, last month’s sales grew at their fastest for more than 10 years, with 6.4% more goods bought than in November 2013. That pace outstripped every month since May 2004, when the quantity bought grew by 6.9%. The quantity bought was up by 1.6% compared to the previous month.

But the growth in purchases came as prices fell, with average prices down by 2% in November, compared to the same time last year. That was the largest decline since August 2002, and came as the price of both petrol and food fell.

Nonetheless, the value of goods bought during the month remained ahead, up by 4.3% on last year and 1.2% on last month. Some £7.9bn was spent on average during the week, up from £7.5bn last year and £7.1bn in October.

Online, the fastest growth came at households goods stores, where spending was up by 38.4% and accounted for 6.5% of total spending. Textile, clothing and footwear stores saw sales rise by 16.1% and account for 11.6% of all spending, while department stores also felt the benefit of the Black Friday effect, with sales up by 15.7% and accounting for 10.5% of spending.

Food spending online grew by 12.4% and accounted for 3.9% of overall retail sales in this category.

Commenting on the figures, Dan Wagner, chief executive of Powa Technologies said: “The way consumers shop has changed – and it’s incredible that with High Street retailers spending so much on market research, they do not seem to have clocked on to the fact that their sales and customer engagement strategies are outdated and no longer reflect the habits of shoppers.

“It is apparent for me from the sharp rise in sales from Black Friday and Cyber Monday that retailers have been caught napping and many now have left it too late to respond to the rapid changes in consumer behaviour. They did not factor in the widespread and rapid adoption of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, with sales via these devices recording almost 50 per cent growth in 2014 (IMRG). Trends such as showrooming, with consumers making the effort to go in-store, only to later buy online after browsing competitors, are resulting in lost sales for the retailer.

“Consumers are driving this change and retailers need to review and innovate based on consumer behaviour – but the reality is that they have not innovated fast enough. These retailers are fighting for their own survival and frankly, I am astonished that they have failed to predict and adapt their strategy to respond to this seismic shift which has the potential to decimate their businesses.

“In my view, changes in business rates alone are not going to be enough to halt the tide in the demise of those retailers that have failed to evolve. The post-Christmas period will be a bigger blood-bath than last year, and for some retailers, it is already too late.”

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