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1. United Kingdom
UK retail sales flat in November
BRC's Helen Dickinson: "We will see a flurry of activity as Christmas approaches" UK retail sales failed to grow in November, adding to fears that consumers are reining in spending ahead of Christmas. Sales volumes were flat in November compared with October, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. They had been expected to bounce back after October's shock 0.8% fall. The one bright spot was in household goods stores, where sales rose by 3.8% on the month, including consumer electrical items. The pick-up in electrical sales may in part reflect a rush to buy discounted stock at the failed Comet chain, which closed its doors for the final time earlier this week. In contrast, sales of both food and clothing (including shoes) registered a 0.1% drop from the month before. Visa added to the bleak picture, announcing that the total value of sales using its payment system in the week to Sunday, 16 December - the penultimate week before Christmas - was down by 2.9% from a year ago. 'Last-minute rush'
The picture over the course of the last 12 months remains one of painfully slow growth, with the ONS reporting that the volume of sales in November up 0.9% from a year ago. By value, sales in November fell 0.1% from the month before - reflecting price cutting by retailers - but increased 1.5% on the year. The volume of retail sales has more or less stagnated since 2008. Prior to that, sales had grown at an average rate of about 3.7% each year since the ONS first began keeping records in 2000. While sales by volume measures solely the quantity of goods sold, sales by value also takes into account the effect of inflation on prices. The ONS said the estimated prices of goods sold increased by 0.5%...