BRC-KPMG: Black Friday increasingly an online retail event

Like-for-like UK retail sales increased by 0.6% year-on-year in November, with online stealing the show around the Black Friday period, according to new data.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC)-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor shows that online sales of non-food products grew by 6.5% in November, although the overall retail sales improvement was driven by food.

Black Friday is now an established event on the retail calendar, and although it helped drive sales during the month, it did not fundamentally shift underlying trends in spending, according to the BRC.

The research indicates that the online penetration rate increased from 26.3% in November 2016 to 27.4% in November 2017 – the highest on record.

Helen Dickinson, CEO of the BRC, said: “Food sales were responsible for pretty much all the growth this month as higher prices continue to absorb more of the weekly shopping budget.

“Non-food sales – the focus of Black Friday – fell, as the squeeze on household incomes continues to impact discretionary spend.”

She added: “That’s not to deny that Black Friday was a significant event. Sales of non-food products that week were over 40% higher than in the other weeks of the month, while it was the biggest week ever for non-food products online.

“However, rather than increasing overall sales, the event has shifted spending away from other parts of the festive period, and focuses shoppers’ attentions online and away from stores.”

Paul Martin, head of retail at KPMG, suggested any retail sales growth should be welcome, but not at the cost of profitability. He questioned whether retailers’ Black Friday efforts were worth it, based on the “meagre” sales upturn.

“Despite Cyber Monday falling outside November’s figures, sales growth was clearly more prominent online,” he added.

“After previous in-store stampedes, it is clear that retailers are increasingly moving Black Friday away from the high street.”

For some retailers, Black Friday is a key part of their annual strategy – and there will be plenty of companies that view this year's event as a success. According to the BRC and KPMG, gaming, wearable tech and ‘internet of things’ products performed well throughout November, as did house textiles, health & beauty and fashion.

And in the week that Toys R Us confirmed it is to shutter at least 26 UK stores, the research showed that toys, last year’s star performance category in November, saw sales sharply drop this year.