A last minute boost to Christmas sales

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Retail sales in December were “underwhelming”, the British Retail Consortium said commenting on the results of its monthly retail sales monitor that showed that sales rose 0.3% on a like-for-like basis in the month. On a total basis, sales were up 1.5%, against a 4.1% rise in December 2011.

Online sales showed the best performance, increasing by 17.8% which was the fastest growth since December 2011.

Commenting on the figures, BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “Against the relentlessly tough economic backdrop and low expectations, these results are not a cause for celebration, but not a disaster either. Total growth for December hasn’t beaten inflation and is only on a par with December 2010, when severe weather put sales volumes on ice for much of the month.

“Retailers knew they were facing a challenging Christmas. Some did better than others but they were generally well prepared for shoppers’ limited spending power. After a sluggish start, the final few days leading up to Christmas saw a last-minute sales boost, as many made the most of a full shopping weekend which the calendar didn’t offer in the previous year. Footfall was disappointingly low but it seems that when people did make shopping trips they bought a lot in one go.”

Meanwhile John Lewis has reported a 14.8% uplift in trade in the five weeks to 29 December compared to the same period last year. Electricals and home technology sales were up 30.9% on last year, while fashion and beauty sales rose 10.4%. Online sales at johnlewis.com climbed 44.3% in the five week period and now account for a quarter of the total John Lewis business.

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