Steady start to Christmas trading

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Retailers have seen a steady start to the Christmas trading

Retailers have seen a steady start to the Christmas trading season last month after figures revealed sales volumes rose 0.3% during November.

Analysts described the performance as respectable, even though the figure was slower than the 0.7% increase the previous month, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In a return to annual growth, sales in November were 1.1% higher than a year ago, whereas in October they declined 0.1%. The year-on-year figures exceeded the City’s expectations of a 0.7% rise.

The growth was driven by sales of non-food items, which supports anecdotal evidence that consumers are bringing forward purchases before VAT increases from 17.5% to 20% on January 4.

Shops that sell mainly non-food reported the amount of goods they sold was up 3.6% on the previous year, whereas shops that mainly sell food, which is largely exempt from VAT, reported that volumes were down 1.3%.

Internet sales soared by 2.3% year-on-year, accounting for a record 10.5% of all sales.

The recent snowfall which has stopped many consumers from reaching the shops happened too late to affect the figures, covering the period between October 31 and November 27.

Vicky Redwood, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, said: “November’s UK retail sales figures provide further evidence that consumer spending is ending the year on a relatively strong note.

“Admittedly, at least part of this strength probably reflects consumers bringing forward big-ticket spending ahead of the VAT rise.

“But for now, at least, consumer spending should prevent the overall economic recovery from slowing too sharply in the final quarter of the year.”

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