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UK shoppers cast off Brexit blues to spend more in November - BRC

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12/03/2019 | 03:20am EST
Pedestrians walk past a sign in a store window on Oxford Street on 'Black Friday' in London

British shoppers picked up the pace of their spending last month - excluding distortions caused by the timing of Black Friday - as they took a break from worrying about Brexit, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The British Retail Consortium said total retail spending tumbled by 4.4% compared with its figures for November 2018 which included the Black Friday period, unlike this year.

Adjusting for that discrepancy, and for differences in the proximity to Christmas of the BRC's November sales measurement period, the figures looked better for retailers.

Adjusted sales rose 0.9% year-on-year, the biggest increase since January, apart from April when the timing of Easter gave a calendar-related boost to sales.

Britain's consumers, buoyed by rising pay and modest inflation, have helped the economy to grow since the 2016 Brexit referendum, offsetting cuts to investment by many companies.

But there have been some signs recently that shoppers were turning more cautious, given the lack of clarity about Britain's departure from the European Union and an election on Dec. 12.

"Growth appears stronger in November than in previous months," BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

Consumers were more willing to spend after the risk of a no-deal Brexit was pushed back from an Oct. 31 deadline until the end of January, she said.

"If the next government wishes to see retail spending remain healthy in 2020 it is essential they clarify our future relationship with the EU as soon as possible," Dickinson said.

In like-for-like terms, which strips out changes in retail space, sales were up 0.4% compared with November 2018, when adjusted for Black Friday and the proximity of Christmas.

A separate survey from payment card company Barclaycard painted a less upbeat picture about broader consumer spending.

It said spending rose by 0.9% in November, slowing from 1.5% growth in October, with no change in spending on essentials and a 1.3% rise in non-essentials.

Last week, the Confederation of British Industry said retailers had better-than-expected sales in November and were more upbeat about December.

(Writing by William Schomberg, editing by Andy Bruce)

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