UK retail sales volumes jumped 2% in November driven by fashion but bricks-and-mortar department stores took a hit.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded retail values increased 2.7% year-on-year and edged up 0.2% against October.
The ONS said fashion sales volumes recorded “strong growth”, up 6.4%, and the amount spent increased 7.6%. Both increases were the highest since December 2011.
But the strong volume growth was negated by a fall in the amount bought at department stores and petrol stations, while homewares and electricals retailers also recorded volume falls. This led to a small month-on-month overall sales volume increase of 0.3%.
The quantity bought at department stores edged up 0.1% year-on-year but the amount spent grew 0.6% reflecting a fall in the prices of goods sold in
this sector of 0.7% as measured by the ONS implied price deflator.
But online spend at department stores in the month hit a record 11.4%. The ONS said this supports retailer feedback that investment in their websites has boosted online sales but taken away from physical store sales.
In the month online sales comprised 11.9% of all retail sales, a record high, after the proportion of online sales grew 1.4 percentage points.
The average weekly spend in November hit £7.6bn, up from £7.3bn last year. The price of goods edged up 0.6%, as average store prices were pushed up by supermarkets and fashion retailers while all of the other retail categories recorded average price falls year-on-year.
Small stores experienced more growth year on year than large stores with the amount spent in small stores up 4.5% compared with 2.9% in large stores.
Deloitte UK head of retail Ian Geddes said: “Today’s results will come as a surprise to some. November’s performance was stronger than expected, enjoying increases in sales on both a year-on-year and month-on-month basis.
“Clothing in particular saw a steep rise as the winter weather finally arrived. Online sales continue to drive growth, with the weekly amount spent online increasing by 15% compared to November 2012.
“The industry will be hoping for an even stronger performance in December, boosted by key dates in the shopping calendar including Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the traditional Boxing Day sales. However, while the volume of sales is expected to remain high, many of these will be driven by promotions and discounts which will impact profit margins.”
Barclays head of retail and wholesale Richard Lowe added: “Retailers are hoping for the proverbial late Christmas with consumers expected to make a last-minute dash for the shops this weekend. What discounting there is on the high street has been largely planned by retailers so consumers will be able to bag some late bargains while stocking up on food and drink to see them through the festive period.”