Black Friday boost for retail sales

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However, the amount of money spent jumped by 3.5%, reflecting a rise in food prices that has contributed to the increase in inflation, which is now at a near six-year high of 3.1%.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed that retail sales volumes in November were up 1.6 percent from a year previously, and contrasting a relatively flat performance in the month of October.

Sales in the three months to November grew by just 1.0 percent compared with a year earlier, the weakest since May 2013.

"It was a month of two halves, with a slow start followed by sales ramping up in the final few weeks as retailers kicked off their Black Friday and Christmas promotional activity in earnest". Non-store retailing, which includes online sales, saw a 2.6 percent increase.

Sales were forecast to grow marginally by 0.4 percent after expanding 0.5 percent in October. This strength has merely reflected people bringing forward purchases that they otherwise would have made in December or January to November, due to the discounts available on Black Friday. However, when the impact of inflation is factored in, real weekly wages fell by 0.2%, when including bonuses and by 0.4% when excluding bonuses, compared with a year earlier. Those sales will fall into the December data.

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ONS admitted that its seasonal adjustment may not fully account for a longer Black Friday sales period, with this set of data covering the period up to 25 November, while Cyber Monday sales from 27 November will be included in the next set of figures.

When the BoE raised interest rates on November 2, it forecast real-terms household consumption growth would slow to 1 percent next year from 1.5 percent predicted for this year as demand shifted towards business investment and exports.

Black Friday is an import from the U.S., where it takes place on the day after Thanksgiving and is regarded as the start of the Christmas shopping period.

Brexit uncertainty, higher interest rates and the squeeze on living standards from rising prices are taking their toll. This was much better than the expected 0.3 percent increase.

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