High street sales fall 2.2% in December

Published on: 6th January 2014

Sales among mid-market retail chains were down 2.2% in December compared to the same month in 2012, according to a high street sales tracker from BDO, the accountancy group.walking-feet300

Mid-tier retailers are defined as those with annual sales of up to £500m. The survey tracks sales at 85 chains, and showed shoppers kept a tight rein on spending in the run-up to December 25th, despite some retailers offering discounts of up to 30%.

Separate data from Barclaycard suggested consumer spending growth nearly ground to a halt in the weeks before Christmas as shoppers were only persuaded to spend on discount days. Sales growth plunged after the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events at the end of November and beginning of December, a 10.4% leap that weekend, followed by growth of 0.9% between December 3rd and 17th. It then edged marginally higher, to 1.2% in the final six days before Christmas Eve, a fall in real terms. Spending bounced back only on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, Barclaycard said, as the clearance sales began, rising by 13.6%, followed by a 4.8% increase on 27th December.

Next and John Lewis unveiled strong festive sales figures. Tesco is expected to report sales, excluding new store openings and fuel, down between 0.5% and 2.5% for the six weeks to January 4th. Sainsbury’s enjoyed underlying sales growth through most of 2013, but the retailer, which traditionally outperforms rival chains at Christmas when shoppers treat themselves, is thought likely to report a slight decline in underlying quarterly sales on Wednesday.

The poor performance in stores was offset by a 31% rise in off-store sales across all retail groups, in another sign of the importance of an online presence.

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