ONS posts deflated retail figures but exclude Black Friday sales

Retail sales fell suddenly by 0.6% in a monthly comparison according to ONS, representing a fourth consecutive month of decline.

“All main sectors saw their sales fall with the exception of food stores,” ONS statistician Rhian Murphy said.

The data group did note, though, that its stats didn’t include Black Friday sales, as it said November 29th fell outside of its reporting period for the month, which concluded on the 23rd.

It did state however, that it had adjusted for where in the calendar Black Friday fell when drawing up its on-year comparison.

Regarding the discount period, ONS reported growth of 1%. This was far below the 2.1% growth predicted by economists, and the lowest annual growth since April 2018.

Commenting on the results, Thomas Pugh, UK economist at consultancy Capital Economics, said, “At face value, November’s further drop in retail sales is pretty concerning”.

Looking at the broader picture, some have espoused a more positive outlook in light of Boris Johnson’s election win.

Duncan Brewer, a partner at consultancy firm Oliver Wyman, said “the general euphoria of a Conservative majority and a better exchange rate for the pound may lead to more spending over Christmas and in the New Year.”

However, Brewer then doubled back and concluded that consumer spending “will likely only be short-lived”.

“Despite more temporary political stability and low unemployment, we expect that at least two major well-loved British retailers will go bust over the course of next year, and that 100,000 jobs will be cut across the sector due to a combination of overall stagnated spending, cost-cutting and increased automation,” he said.

Chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, Samuel Tombs, added that inflation “is set to hover about 1.5% over the next nine months, while a revival in corporate confidence following the election should lead to stronger growth in employment.”

“Disposable incomes also will be boosted by the recent sharp fall in mortgage rates and a big increase in the threshold for National Insurance contributions in April”.

In more positive news outside of retail, the Star Wars Origins film boosts British companies, Bidstack Group PLC (LON: BIDS) shares surged on new contract win, and Focusrite PLC (LON: TUNE) acquired Martin Audio.

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Jamie Gordon
Senior Journalist at the UK Investor Magazine. Also a contributing writer at the Investment Observer, UK Property Journal and UK Startup Magazine. Postgraduate of King's College London with a specialisation in Business Ethics. Interested in Development Economics and David Hume.