Inflationary pressures lead to lacklustre December retail sales

The BRC said the annual fall in sales through bricks and mortar outlets was the biggest it has seen since it began collecting the figures five years ago

Like-for-like retail sales, which exclude new store sales, rose 0.6% in December, down on the 1% rise in the same month a year ago. Last year, December sales grew by one per cent.

In-store sales of non-food items declined 3.7% on a total basis and 4.4% on a like-for-like basis, the deepest since BRC's records began in December 2012.

On an overall basis, non-food retail sales decreased 1.9 per cent on a like-for-like basis and 1.4 per cent on a total basis - the lowest since March 2009.

In the fourth quarter, food sales increased 2.6% on a like-for-like basis and 4.2% on a total basis. This is below the 12-month average of 8% but above the 3-month average of 6.2%.

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"Retailers offered lower prices at the beginning of December than a year ago on many of their non-food ranges, providing welcome options for Christmas shoppers on a stretched budget", she added.

Britons may have loaded up on the turkey and vegetables on Christmas Day as usual but many would have found their stockings lighter than in previous years as spending on food took priority over splashing out on presents.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said that with inflation outpacing growth, shoppers continued to see more of their spending power absorbed by essential items, including food, leaving less left over for buying Christmas gifts.

Paul Martin of KPMG said Christmas trading had delivered "meagre" like-for-like growth, with just a 0.6pc rise in December.

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