High street fails to rally for fourth poor December in a row

Many stores did well in the last trading week before Christmas, including a Saturday, with overall sales up by 11.7% year-on-year
Many stores did well in the last trading week before Christmas, including a Saturday, with overall sales up by 11.7% year-on-year

The high street failed to rally at the end of a dismal year for retailers in a fourth poor December in a row, new figures show.

Christmas spending failed to push figures into the black, with like-for-like sales down 0.1% - the fourth consecutive December with no high street growth, according to the BDO High Street Sales Tracker (HSST).

Year-on-year sales of fashion goods were down 1.07% in December, but the overall figure was pushed up by increases in lifestyle goods, up 2.4%, and homewares, up 2.6%.

BDO warned that while the December fall of 0.1% might appear marginal, it followed December 2015’s year-on-year drop of 5.3% - the worst like-for-like monthly performance since December 2008.

This year’s decline from such a weak base “will come as a serious disappointment for retailers”, the report said.

However, many stores did manage to capitalise on the last trading week before Christmas, including a Saturday, with overall sales up by 11.7% year-on-year - the best weekly total like-for-like growth recorded since February 2014.

Online sales also rocketed in the week before Christmas, increasing 51.1% for the week and helping to lift online growth for December to 19% - a notable improvement on the 7.5% growth seen in the previous December.

BDO LLP head of retail and wholesale Sophie Michael said: “With such a weak base for December 2015, any further decline can only be seen as a poor result for retailers.

“Coming at a critical juncture, this fourth negative December in succession highlights the magnitude of the challenge that lies ahead for 2017, when consumers will more keenly feel the bite of inflation and the weaker pound.”