(Adds John Lewis figures, economist reaction)
By David Milliken
LONDON Dec 20 British retail sales grew at the
fastest rate in more than a year in a crucial shopping period in
late November and early December, but stores fear a slowdown
early next year as higher prices start to bite, an industry
survey showed on Tuesday.
The Confederation of British Industry said retailers
reported the fastest sales growth since September 2015 in the
three-week period including 'Black Friday' discounts at the end
of November and the first two weeks of December.
The CBI distributive trades survey's retail sales balance
jumped to +35 for December from an already robust +26 for the
first half of November, beating industry forecasts that growth
would slow slightly.
"(This) points to consumers splashing out in the run-up to
Christmas, thereby maintaining a strong fourth quarter
performance and boosting hopes that GDP growth has held up
well," IHS Markit economist Howard Archer said.
The CBI's December period runs from Nov. 24 to Dec. 13, so
it includes the surge in sales reported following 'Black Friday'
on Nov. 25, when many British retailers copy U.S. stores'
Clothing and food sales did particularly well, the CBI said.
However, retailers predict weaker sales growth in January
and plan to cut back orders with suppliers. The CBI said it
expected rising inflation following Britain's June vote to leave
the European Union to depress growth in spending.
"The pressures on retail activity are likely to increase
during 2017," CBI economist Ben Jones said. "With higher
inflation beginning to weigh on households' purchasing power,
consumption patterns are likely to shift, creating winners and
losers across the retail landscape."
Separate figures on Thursday from upmarket department store
chain John Lewis showed only lacklustre growth, with spending up
just 0.4 percent on the year in the week to Dec. 17.
The store, the only major British retailer to publish weekly
sales data, said the fact that Christmas fell on a Sunday this
year meant some shoppers may be waiting until nearer the day
before buying gifts.
Official retail data last week showed a slowdown in sales
growth in November, though this mostly reflected a fall in fuel
purchases which are not included in the CBI data. Electronics
sales surged off the back of Black Friday discounts.