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.
Through most of 2017 consumers have felt squeezed by increasing inflation which hits the hardest in close to six years in November, during a time when wages have failed to maintain pace.
However, there was unexpected cheer from the country’s retailers in data for November released by the Office of National Statistics that showed sales volumes increased 1.6% compared to the same period one year ago, which beat all forecasts by economists.
Spending in terms of cash was 4.7% higher.
The reaction by the market was muted and some said the increase in retail sales could reflect spending for Christmas being move forward to enjoy the discounts offered on Black Friday.
The boost realized during Black Friday was fleeting, said one London analysts.
Nevertheless, the latest figures could provide reassurance to the country’s central bank, the Bank of England, which increased its interest rates for just the first time in more than a decade in November and will publish it most recent rate decision Friday at noon.
One economist from a bank in London said that the figures for retail sales added to signs from the nation’s factories that the economy of Britain has picked up some momentum late in 2017 and he believed the momentum would continue into next year.
For the month, overall sales in retail were 1.1% higher, up from October’s growth of 0.5% and far stronger than the forecasts by economists for a rise of 0.4%.
Stores specializing in household goods reported that promotions on Black Friday boosted sales, with the number of household electric appliances sold moving higher by over 9% compared to October.
The data are adjusted seasonally, but the statistics agency said might not completely strip out the Black Friday effect, as the promotion period, a phenomenon that is relatively recent borrowed from the U.S., has increased significantly in Britain over the past few years.
During the last three months overall, which smooths volatility compared to just one month, the picture is not good. Sales over the three-month period to November increased only 1% in comparison with the same three months in 2017 and were the weakest dating back to May of 2013.