U.K. Online Sales Jump as Britons Stock Up Early for Christmas

U.K. shoppers splashed out online last month as a new lockdown to contain Covid came into force.

Web grocery sales shot up 97.4% in November from a year earlier, according to a Barclaycard survey. Overall consumer spending fell 1.9%, led by a drop in sales of fuel and non-essential items.

Excitement around new consoles and video game releases, as well as extended Black Friday discounts, contributed to the surge in online sales. Supermarkets saw a jump of almost 20% as the country stocked up early on Christmas supplies.

In a separate survey by the British Retail Consortium, U.K. retail sales rose 7.7% on a like-for-like basis compared to a year earlier. That doesn’t include stores that were temporarily closed because of lockdown, but does include internet sales.

City center shopping areas and physical stores had a difficult month, the surveys showed. Debenhams and Arcadia Group -- two of the biggest retailers -- collapsed last week as the nation emerged from the second lockdown.

“Lockdown resulted in dismal performance for high street retailers, whilst online sales rose by impressive double figures across most categories,” said Paul Martin, U.K. head of retail at KPMG, which helps collect the BRC data.

Barclaycard said more than two thirds of households were confident in their financial situation as news of a Covid-19 vaccine signaled a return to normal life. For now, high Christmas spirits will see a fifth of the nation spend more than normal on gifts.

“Beyond the Christmas trading period, confidence is likely to be fragile as the U.K. leaves the European Union and more shoppers feel the impact of the economic downturn,” said Susan Barratt, chief executive officer of IGD, a think tank focusing on the food and consumer good industry.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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