By Marcus Leach

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show mixed news for retailers, which show sales figures to be considerably higher than the same period last year but down on October.

The value of retail sales in November 2011 showed an increase of 4.6 per cent compared with November 2010. However, overall retail sales have fallen 0.4% on Octobers numbers.

Once again, the average weekly spend on online retailing has increased, this time to a whopping £787.9 million up from £546.4 million in October 2011 and is now estimated to account for 12.2 per cent of all retail sales ; the highest number on record.

“Figures suggest that shoppers are continuing to move their shopping online," Kevin Flood, CEO of retail expert Shopow said.

"High street stores have had to pull out all the stops to make their shops attractive by reducing prices early and creating imaginative promotions to increase footfall and more activity at the tills. It is still far from plain sailing however as there is still a lot of pressure on the finances of every shopper in Britain — online and on the high street.”

As the Portas Review suggests, the high streets are fighting a losing battle with online retailers. The UK online retail market is growing at a rate of 14% year-on-year, with Britons spending an estimated £5.9bn shopping on the internet. The online retail sector grew 9.4% in the month of November alone, contrary to the consumer austerity demonstrated on the high street.

The level of promotions is on a par with the “panic sales” of 2008 and while this year’s promotions are largely more structured and considered, this isn’t appearing to have such a large impact on margins as anticipated.

The effects of a combination of reduced margins and low sales will come as retailers approach Christmas more in hope than expectation. Consumers are likely to be less than inspired to hit the Boxing Day sales this year as rock bottom discounting is already ongoing.

“With purse strings tightened, shoppers are using social networking to share the deals and discounts they have discovered," Flood added.

"The retailers who make social shopping accessible will benefit from natural, word of mouth exposure. This Christmas will be the biggest internet shopping season on record. Mary Portas may have been right when she anticipated that online retailers would continue to pilfer trade from the high street.”

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