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December retail sales 'dreadful'

Retail sales fell back 3.3% on a like for like basis in December according to the British Retail Consortium.

Total retail sales in December were down 1.4% on a year ago, reflecting the worst results in the British Retail Consortium Sales Survey’s history.

The BRC said that footwear and food were the only sectors so show sales up on a year ago.

The BRC said that the year-on-year decline in clothing sales was not quite as bad as in November, but that this was because of discounting and promotions. It added that margins were often hit where sales gains were made. Clothing sales have been lower than year-earlier levels for 14 out of the past 15 months. Accessories and smaller items sold better than more expensive items like coats and suits.

Footwear sales showed a small year-on-year gain but gains on women’s and kid’s footwear were partly offset by a fall in men’s footwear sales. The rise in footwear sales in December was largely discount driven.

Separately non-food internet sales rose 30% in December, indicating consumers are increasingly confident about shopping online. The 30% gain was against a 9.5% uplift in November and a 16.6% uplift in October. Non-food non-retail sales account for around 4% of total retail sales.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “These are truly dreadful numbers. Some retailers were more successful than others and the scond half of December was better than the first…non-food retailers had a torrid December despite a blizzard of promotions and deals, which would have hit margins. Many hard-pressed customers couldn’t be seduced into spending.”

Sharon Hardiman, head of non-store retailing at the BRC, said: “The sharp contrast between December’s strong non-store sales growth and the previous month indicates customers are increasingly confident with leaving internet shopping until nearer Christmas.”

“Some retailers offered later dates for guaranteed Christmas delivery this year. While this is a fast-growing sector, it still represents too small a part of total spending to compensate the poor performance of retailing overall.”

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