United Kingdom retail sales flatter to deceive thanks to Black Friday effect

Squeezed consumers boosted retail sales last month as they snapped up bargains during Black Friday

But there was some unexpected cheer for retailers in November data from the Office for National Statistics, which showed sales volumes were 1.6 percent higher than a year ago, beating all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists.

Spending in terms of cash was 4.7% higher.

The year-on-year growth rate increased to 1.6%, with the previous month's growth revised to flat from the 0.3% fall originally estimated.

With three of the last four November retail sales prints from the ONS have risen in excess of 1% and from 2014 to 2016 the level of seasonally adjusted sales in the month have been above the 12-month average, the statistical authority was felt to be struggling to adjust to the effects of the new seasonal sales regime.

Spending on household goods showed the strongest growth at 2.9% while retailers suggested that the annual mega-shopping event, Black Friday, contributed to the rise, with electrical household appliances making the largest contribution to the growth.

"The boost from Black Friday will be fleeting", Samuel Tombs of Pantheon Macroeconomics said.

But the picture was less rosy when comparing the past three months with the same period a year earlier - smoothing out monthly volatility.

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In addition, the research found that food continued to be the smallest contribution to growth in internet sales, contributing only 0.7 percentage points.

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.

Retail sales have returned to steady growth since a sharp slow down earlier this year as higher inflation began to kick in.

Brexit uncertainty, higher interest rates and the squeeze on living standards from rising prices are taking their toll.

ONS senior statistician Rhian Murphy told media: "Household goods stores had a good November, with a number of businesses saying that Black Friday promotions boosted sales".

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

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

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