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Clothing sales boost UK retail revenues

Sales of clothing helped edge up overall like-for-like UK retail sales by 0.4% in December, according to the latest BRC figures.

Total UK retail sales increased by 1.8% compared to the year before.

Clothing was the second-best performing category in December after health and beauty, with the sector enjoying a strong end to the year after a sluggish previous two months. The BRC said the increase in sales was likely to have been down to promotions, as highlighted by the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index, which recorded its steepest fall in prices since 2006. It highlighted womenswear as one of the better-performing categories during the Sales.

The BRC said it was mixed fortunes for footwear as retailers held more stock than the previous year due to the milder weather in autumn. The wet weather in December did encourage customers to purchase boots.

In line with Christmas trading updates, online proved to be a sweetener for retailers. The BRC reported record online sales, with online sales of non-food products jumping 19.2%. In December, online sales represented 18.6% of total non-food sales of its monitor, up from 16.5% last year.

Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “This is a respectable result overall, in line with our prediction that Christmas trading in 2013 would reflect that while confidence levels were higher than the previous year, this wasn’t always matched by more money in pockets. The last-minute rush also arrived as expected, giving a major boost to sales in the final few days before Christmas after a fairly flat showing mid-month.”

She added: “Overall, this result meets expectations and draws to a close what has been a year of encouraging but fragile recovery.  Retailers will be hoping that a good response to new ranges coupled with a continuing boost from post-Christmas sales events gets 2014 off to a promising start.”

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