The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown an increase in sales volumes of 1.3% in November, boosted in part by Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.
This latest good news for retailers follows inflation slowing for the second month running – to 3.9% in November.
However, Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, stressed that while retail sales grew strongly in November overall sales are still below pre-pandemic levels. “It’s still a challenging time for retailers,” he noted.
Morgan continued: “In the latest month, household goods retailers, clothing shops and department stores all reported robust sales, with computer stores, sports equipment, toy shops and cosmetics stores particularly benefitting from the impact of their Black Friday promotions.
“Supermarket sales ticked up a little, but it was specialist food and drink stores that had a really strong November due to customers stocking up early for Christmas and spending more than we have traditionally seen at this time of year.”
Increasing sales in the run up to Christmas has demonstrated a bounce back in consumer confidence, according to Asif Aziz, retail director at EE. He said: “As we look ahead to 2024, retailers will be looking to capitalise on this consumer confidence to turn footfall into revenue, and one of the big learnings from this year has been the power of experiential retail to do that. Not only does it give consumers a reason to visit and interact with the brand in store, but it can also increase dwell time and leave a lasting impression on customers.”
The latest figures were also welcomed by small businesses, Jon Boland, general manager of Clover in the UK, commented: “Analysing our client base of more than 80,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK, we saw a significant uplift in spending across jewellery, electrical, and gift stores as consumers finalised holiday shopping early. However, this was slightly offset by drops in spending across hospitality and leisure venues including pubs, hotels, and restaurants.
“That said, with ‘festive bounces’ part of the norm this time of year, the real question is: how will UK retailers fare in 2024, and will consumer spending remain elevated into next year? For small businesses, delivering value while maintaining the quality of customer experience is pivotal in the competition for consumer spend and drive for brand loyalty.”
Josh Graham, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Airtime Rewards, added: “Retailers will be feeling optimistic as retail figures bounced back in the lead up to Christmas. Likely generated by strong Black Friday sales, and early holiday spending, retailers can step into Christmas feeling confident about the month ahead. Our own data shows that spending on clothing, home and groceries increased the most in November.
“While retailers might feel optimistic, they must remain realistic about the challenges ahead. In this economically squeezed environment, consumers will be keeping a close eye on their discretionary spending. Initiatives aimed at reducing costs and demonstrating value will be vital, and it is those retailers who are capable of creating exceptional customer experiences that will emerge as champions in this shifting retail landscape.”
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