Roller-coaster year tied off by a modest retail performance

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UK retail sales as a whole enjoyed an average increase of 2.8% in the fourth quarter after a difficult year for jewellery retailers.

But non-food sales, including items such as jewellery, rose only 1.1% on a like-for-like basis. This is in line with the 12-month total average growth of 1.3% – the lowest non-food 12-month average since October 2012.

Online sales grew 7.2% over the three months to December, while in-store sales declined 1.2%, showing that online continues to be a vital area for retailers.

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Although non-food sales were described as “sluggish” by the British Retail Consortium, gifting items such as jewellery gave a strong performance.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC, said: “Despite the slow start to the Christmas trading period, the week itself was a bumper one and exceeded expectations. It delivered the majority of sales growth for the month, proving even bigger than the Black Friday period- which is the reverse of what we saw the year before.

“It was a polarised month as shoppers held out for the Christmas week, which saw sales up around 40 per cent compared with the other weeks of the month.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail for KPMG, noted that the year ended on a “somewhat positive note” for retailers. He said: “Retailers were helped by the timing of Christmas, which fell on a Sunday, giving shoppers the chance to use the weekend for a final dash to the shops delivering a last minute boost to sales.”

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