December UK retail sales decline 0.4 per cent on like-for-like basis

Total sales – which do not take into account shops opening and closing – were up one per cent, compared to a 1.8 per cent rise in December 2013, the slowest December growth since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, according to the British Retail Consortium-KPMG retail sales monitor.

“Extensive discounting disrupted the timing and rhythm of Christmas spending,” David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, says.

“Between Black Friday and Boxing Day retailers and consumers engaged in a three-week dance, each waiting for the other to take the lead and, as a result, sales suffered.

“It’s now clear that Black Friday did pull festive sales forward into November and this created a challenging lull in spending, with consumers waiting for future bargains.

“This situation did not reverse until the week of Christmas.

“The launch of Boxing Day sales mixed with new season full price stock saw some phenomenal spending, with fashion retailers achieving double digit growth.

“This difficult stop/start sales environment has been undoubtedly challenging, but most retailers have managed to achieve a flat, but respectable, sales performance this Christmas – time will tell on margins.”

2015 is likely to bring more of the same, McCorquodale says: “The big four grocers have already signalled they will cut prices to secure sales.

“Non-food retailers will fare better, but while consumer confidence remains fragile, these too are vulnerable to shocks, be they political or economic.”

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