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Bank cautious after retail sales issued

Black Friday helped to propel retail sales 1.6% higher in November – but masked a difficult time for retailers.

That was the headline finding in the latest report from the Office for National Statistics.

Statistician Rhian Murphy said underlying growth remained "reasonably strong", but analysts said Black Friday had distorted sales and retailers faced challenging conditions.

John Pitchford, head of corporate banking for Barclays in Shropshire, said: “It was a really good result for the industry last month, suggesting that Black Friday sales were able to encourage consumers to part with their cash.

“In the current environment, to post any growth is some achievement so retailers should be very happy with the data.

“However, year on year comparisons have to be approached with some caution, as despite attempts to adjust the figures, strategies around Black Friday continue to evolve and patterns of buying are disrupted in new ways each year.

“It’s only when we get to post-Christmas numbers that we’ll properly be able to assess how the sector has performed, and it will also take some time for the true impact of Black Friday on retailers’ margins to become clear, but that shouldn’t detract from what the industry has achieved.

“Electrical appliances in particular proved popular around Black Friday, and clothing also delivered some fairly strong growth during November.”

He added: “The fact remains that this is still a very tricky time for retailers. A quick look at the High Street, with plenty of sales trying to entice shoppers even though we’re in mid-December, reveals that much of the industry is having to work extra hard to seal that all-important Christmas boost.

“Right now, retailers will be entirely focused on their pricing strategy for the last week before Christmas, and looking ahead to what they can do in the January sales to ensure a positive overall result.

“This will be no easy task as inflation, particularly in the grocery sector, continues to take a bite out of the public’s available disposable income.”

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