Black Friday and Christmas shopping failed to boost British retail sales in November, according to official figures.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales fell by 0.4% last month, marking a weaker-than-expected month and following a 0.9% rise in October.
Economists had predicted that sales would increase by 0.3%.
ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said: “Retail sales fell in November, driven by a significant drop in online retailers, while Black Friday offers failed to provide the usual boost to the sector.
“However, department stores and home goods stores have reported an increase in sales as these retailers tell us that the long Black Friday discount period has helped sales.
“Sales of food and alcohol have also increased with consumers stocking up early to try and spread the cost of the Christmas celebrations.”
Non-store retailers, meaning mainly online stores, saw a 2.8% drop in sales prices in November, as shoppers continue to return to the high street following the Covid lockdown.
However, they are still about a fifth higher than pre-Covid in February 2020.
Grocery sales bucked the trend as prices rose 0.9% in the month, suggesting people were eating early over Christmas.
However, in recent months, supermarkets have highlighted that they are seeing a drop in sales due to the higher cost of living including higher food prices, the ONS said.
And despite retailers slashing product prices to encourage Christmas spending during the Black Friday sales period, non-food retail sales fell 0.6% in November.
Black Friday was on November 25 and reporting includes October 30 to November 26 – meaning Cyber Monday and any subsequent promotional periods will be included in the December report.
However, shoppers have been returning to stores that increased sales by 1.7% in the month, while home goods stores such as furniture stores rose by 4.4%.
Some of these retailers said they offered customers longer Black Friday promotions with specials lasting a whole month, the ONS found.
Clothing stores saw sales rise 2.1% in November but still remain 2% below levels reported in February 2020 before the pandemic hit.
Erin Brookes, head of retail Europe at Alvarez & Marsal, said: “It is clear that retailers are struggling to change stock, as Christmas sales have started earlier than in recent years and discounts are being offered for longer.
“The jury is out on whether this so-called ‘Golden Quarter’ will deliver the holiday cheer the retail industry needs.”
“A combination of cost of living issues, disruption from strikes and severe weather will reduce spending in December, affecting both retail and online purchases.”