High street sales in December fell for the fourth year in a row, as last minute domestic and international shoppers went online for festive deals.
Total like for like sales were down by -0.1% according to BDO’s high street sales tracker. Shopping centres bore the brunt of the downturn, falling by -5.2% in the second week of December.
Fashion like for like sales were also down by -1.07%, the worst result for the sector since September. A positive final week, up 8.3%, was not enough to combat unseasonably warm weather and lower footfall earlier in the month.
However, BDO stressed the sales slump could have been “considerably worse” were it not for a stellar performance in the week leading up to Christmas Day.
The figures come the same week Next announced full price sales for the 54 days to 24 December had slipped 0.4% year on year. The retailer also cut its central profit guidance for the full year to £792m, down from £805m.
Christmas trading was steadier at John Lewis, where sales were up 36% to £175.6m in the week up to and including 24 December but sales fell 9.4% in the first week of Sale.
Business recovery firm Begbies Traynor warned the gloomy outlook for retailers had spooked investors and added that more profit warnings were likely.