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Black Friday shopping spree boosts retail sales

14 December 2017

Shoppers across Britain pounced on the bargains available on Black Friday late last month which gave an unexpected boost to retail, that contrasted signs earlier of a subdued beginning to the Christmas spending season.

The figures suggest consumers are willing to keep spending despite the sharpest rise in inflation for nearly six years, driven by the higher cost of importing goods to the United Kingdom as a effect of the pound's weakness since the Brexit vote.

"The surge in retail sales in November does not signal broader consumer strength".

The data is likely to appease Central Bank of England, which for the first time raised interest rates over more than a decade last month. "Households will simply borrow a little more and save a little less to smooth out their consumption", he said.

Excluding auto fuel, retail sales volume growth improved to 1.2 percent from 0.4 percent in the previous month.

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Electrical household appliances were a key factor in boosting sales. "The official data are failing to fully adjust for the new seasonal pattern generated by Black Friday, which only gained traction in the United Kingdom three years ago", said economists at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

During the last three months overall, which smooths volatility compared to just one month, the picture is not good.

The monthly sales figures also show the increasing importance of online shopping in the United Kingdom, with an increase in average weekly spending of 10.2% compared with a year ago. City economists had forecast growth of 0.4%.

When the United Kingdom central bank raised interest rates in early November, the regulator predicted that household consumption growth would slow to 1% next year.

Food prices are rising at their fastest rate in four years, adding to the squeeze on household budgets.

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The ONS said that the quantity of food bought in November fell by 0.1% compared to the same month past year.

This week British electronics retailer Dixons Carphone DC.L said it had enjoyed record sales during November's Black Friday promotion, despite weak demand for mobile phones that hit profits.

But home furnishings company Carpetright cut forecasts after warning of fragile consumer confidence.

On a yearly basis, retail sales volume grew 1.6 percent after staying flat in October.

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Black Friday shopping spree boosts retail sales