UK clothing sales were weaker in November on the month prior

UK clothing sales were weaker in November on the month prior

Black Friday proved a mixed blessing for some UK retailers in November, but the clothing category struggled with weak sales.

Total retail sales increased 1.3% in November compared with growth of 0.7% in the same month last year, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail/Online Sales Monitor, while on a like-for-like basis, sales were up 0.6% year-on-year. This was slightly below the three month average of 1.6% but slightly faster than the 12-month average of 1.1%.

Sales growth at clothing retailers, however, slowed month-on-month in November. Black Friday weekend sales were particularly weak, but retailers made most of the increased online traffic in the weeks building up to 25 November by offering promotions to capture shoppers browsing for early bargains.

Footwear, meanwhile, fared better – particularly men's – thanks to the colder weather.

The BRC said total retail sales for November, while not spectacular, were "pretty solid" in what has been a challenging year for sales in the UK.

"November plays host to Black Friday, which over the past few years has become one of the biggest shopping days of the year," says Helen Dickinson, chief executive of BRC. "This year's event was expected to be the biggest yet, and our figures confirm that the week including Black Friday saw non-food sales up around 40% compared with the other weeks of the month. However, compared to last year there was more of a shift of spending from earlier in the month, with sales down on last year in the weeks prior to 25 November."

The BRC says next month will be critical for retailers, providing one final push to improve and maintain sales figures against a backdrop of increasing costs and "consumers' insatiable appetite for discounts."

Nonetheless, online sales of non-food products rose 10.9% year-on-year in November, the third consecutive month of growth above 10%. Clothing performed well, with sales up for the month. Online continued to account for a significant 27.6% of total non-food retail sales. 

"Retailers now face the challenge of processing the inevitable returns following the surge in sales, all too easily overlooked amidst the excitement of Black Friday," says Paul Martin, head of UK retail for KPMG. "The pressure then turns to ensuring deliveries will make it under the Christmas tree in time."