Customer Behaviour

Black Friday spending was not enough to restore confidence to the high street ahead of a “potentially tough” Christmas for retailers, figures suggest.

Overall like-for-like sales fell 1.3% last month following the worst October on record, according to the High Street Sales Tracker from accountancy and advisory firm BDO.

Fashion sales fell 2.5% year on year, cancelling out positive figures for lifestyle goods, up 0.9% and homeware items, up 2.2%.

The sales drop on the high street came despite a year-on-year growth of 1.1% over the Black Friday week at the end of the month.

The first week of November also saw a year-on-year sales lift of 0.4% as the cold weather sparked sales of winter clothing.

However, shoppers kept their wallets firmly closed during the middle two weeks of November despite widespread discounting in the lead-up to the shopping event, with sales down 4.3% and 2.4% year-on-year respectively, “and the signs point to a potentially tough Christmas on the high street”, BDO said.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said all the signs pointed to a potentially tough Christmas on the high street.

She said: “Many stores have struggled so far in the final quarter of this year, and a small rise in sales over Black Friday won’t be nearly enough to deliver a positive like-for-like result in the fourth quarter.

“We believe that the fall in consumer confidence combined with the drop in real earnings due to rising prices is very likely to lead to shoppers cutting back on their discretionary spending whilst maintaining their spend on festive food and drink.

“Retailers will be hoping for a repeat of last year’s massive last-minute festive buying spree, when we saw double digit like-for-like growth in the week leading up to Christmas.

“It will be a tough decision for retailers on whether to go early on discounting or hold their nerve and retain their stock at near to full price for that possible final week surge.”

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