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Retail

UK Consumer Spending Slows In Run-Up To Brexit, Data Shows

British consumer spending grew last month at its slowest pace in more than a year, excluding Easter distortions, with online Black Friday sales failing to offset a lack of confidence about the economy ahead of Brexit, industry data showed on Tuesday.

Total retail spending was up 0.5% in November compared with the same month last year, slowing sharply from a rise of 1.3% in October, the British Retail Consortium said.

Falling Confidence

"Weak consumer demand and falling confidence mean that retailers are in for a nerve-wracking run-up to Christmas," said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson.

"Conditions in the industry have been particularly tough since the vote to leave the EU in 2016, and the current uncertainty has only compounded the challenges," added Dickinson.

Separately, Barclaycard said that its broader measure of consumer spending rose by 3.3% last month – the slowest growth since March.

"It seems shoppers are yet to make their main Christmas purchases for friends, family and loved ones, despite many retailers offering Black Friday discounts to try and boost sales," said Barclaycard director Esme Harwood.

Lack Of Clarity

Like Britain's overall economy, spending by consumers has slowed since the 2016 Brexit vote. The lack of clarity about how Britain will leave the European Union in less than four months' time has weighed on consumer confidence.

Cold weather last month was not enough to tempt shoppers to buy winter clothes, as clothing spending dropped by 2.9% – the biggest fall since October 2017, Barclaycard reported.

The BRC reported that like-for-like retail sales, which exclude new-store openings and more closely represent how retailers typically present their earnings, were down 0.5% on November last year – the biggest fall since October 2017 – excluding distortions caused by the timing of Easter.

Barclaycard reported that consumers' confidence in their finances was at the lowest level since 2015, influenced by 'ongoing economic and political uncertainty'.

Prime Minister Theresa May risks seeing her Brexit transition deal rejected in a key parliamentary vote on 11 December. In the case of a no-deal Brexit, businesses fear disruption to supply chains and goods imports to Britain.

The BRC reported that Black Friday was an 'increasingly digital event', as a record 33.8% of spending on non-food products was done online.

News by Reuters, edited by ESM. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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