Retailers suffer worst December on record

A significant decrease in food and fuel sales saw retail sales drop by 0.8 per cent in November and December – the poorest results for December since records began in 1988.

Soaring prices and snow disruptions are to blame for dismal December sales, according to the ONS, with sales in food stores alone dropping 0.9 per cent.

The news comes as reports of high-street losses and profit warnings mount. Clinton Cards and Mothercare were just two high-street retailers to issue profit warnings earlier in the month; HMV announced the closure of 40 stores in the next 12 months after reporting a 13.6 per cent drop in like-for-like sales in the UK in the five weeks to January 1.

In sharp contrast, internet sales in the UK increased a whopping 25 per cent in December to hit a record monthly high of £6.8bn.

While the Arctic weather proved formidable opposition for bricks-and-mortar retailers, the snow and ice saw many consumers opting to shop from the comfort of their homes.

UK shoppers spent a total of £58.8bn online last year, 18 per cent more than in 2009.

One UK etailer celebrating record last-quarter sales is online clothing store Asos, which yesterday announced a 59 per cent jump in sales, largely thanks to impressive international sales.

Other retailers to enjoy increased festive sales thanks to strong web presence include Majestic Wine and Ocado, while Marks and Spencer and Debenhams have reported a substantial boost in online sales over Christmas.

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