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UK Retail Sales Bounce Back For Christmas

After a chilly October (economically speaking) in the U.K., retail is on the rise in the region as Christmas approaches.

Citing data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Financial Times reports that retail spend during November in the U.K. increased by 1.7 percent for the month and 5 percent for the year — figures, FT attests, that seem to fly in the face of analysts’ predictions of sluggish sales for the holiday season.

“A continued fall in prices, as well as promotions in the run-up to Christmas, have helped to boost the amount shoppers bought in November, both on the high street and online, with the biggest increases coming from department stores and household goods retailers,” Melanie Richard, ONS head of retail sales, told the outlet.

The FT story posits that rising wages and falling prices (particularly for fuel) have contributed to British consumers’ increased buying power, noting that Black Friday — still a new phenomenon in the U.K. — was not much of a success in the field of brick-and-mortar retail but did do very well in the online realm. Amazon.co.uk, for example, reported to have its biggest sales day ever on Black Friday, with more than 7.4 million items ordered.

Sharing further information from the ONS, FT reports that online sales for November of this year increased by 12.7 percent from Nov. 2014 and by 4.9 percent from Oct. 2015.

“While this good news will reinforce the pre-Christmas cheer, it also highlights the unbalanced nature of our recovery, which continues to rely excessively on domestic demand and on services,” David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, told FT. “Our external deficit is still unacceptably large, and while strong consumer spending and services remain vital to our economy, it is important to achieve greater balance — in particular by closing our trade deficit.”

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