UK Retail Sales Fall Less Than Expected In November

UK retail sales declined less-than-expected in November despite restrictions imposed to contain the second wave of the Covid-19, the Office for National Statistics reported Friday.

The retail sales volume dropped 3.8 percent month-on-month in November, in contrast to the 1.3 percent rise logged a month ago. This was the first decline in seven months and was smaller than the economists’ forecast of -4.2 percent.

Food store sales gained 3.1 percent, while non-food store sales decreased 8 percent from the previous month. Clothing retailers reported the sharpest decline of 19 percent.

Retailers commented that despite extensive online Black Friday promotions, the enforced closure of stores had affected clothing sales.

Excluding auto fuel, the sales volume decreased 2.6 percent, reversing October’s 1.4 percent increase. Sales were forecast to fall 3.3 percent.

Despite the monthly fall, overall sales remained above their pre-pandemic levels.

As consumers had brought forward Christmas spending, retail sales grew 2.4 percent on a yearly basis, but weaker than the 5.8 percent rise logged in the previous month and economists’ forecast of 2.8 percent.

Excluding auto fuel, retail sales advanced 5.6 percent after rising 7.8 percent a month ago. However, this was faster than the expected growth of 4.1 percent.

Online retailing accounted for 31.4 percent of total retailing compared with 28.6 percent in October, the ONS said.

Retail sales data reflects huge shifts in the way consumers are shopping and the latest restrictions have only amplified the divide between online and physical retail, James Smith, an ING economist said.

Elsewhere, a survey from the market research group Gfk showed that the UK consumer confidence improved in December.

The consumer sentiment index rose to -26 in December from -33 in the previous month. The expected score was -31.

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