Retailers' sales rose 1% in December but face 2017 'challenge'

Retailers' sales rose 1% in December but face 2017 'challenge'

UK retailers saw a strong finish to Christmas, with like-for-like sales up 1.0% in December from the same month a year earlier, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has reported.

Helen Dickinson, c.e.o of the BRC, said that Black Friday was “bigger” in 2016 for retailers than the year before, but that shoppers held out until the last week before Christmas, which proved a “bumper” one which “exceeded expectations”.

UK retail sales were up 1.0% like-for-like for the five weeks covering 27th November – 31st December on the same period in 2015, when they had increased 0.1%.

By comparison book sales through Nielsen BookScan for the last five weeks to 31st December saw sales up 6% in volume to 35.5 million books, which were sold for £301.3m.

The December sales growth for UK retailers means that total growth for 2016 was 1.2% - a marginal increase in pound terms over the previous year but lower than the year-on-year growth achieved in 2015.

Dickinson said: “December is the most important trading period of the year and with sales across 2016 growing more slowly than the previous year, it was all to play for in the final month. 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.”

She added that going into 2017, retailers needed to create “real growth” in the face of political uncertainty.

“The challenge for retailers in 2017 will be to create real growth against a backdrop of growing inflationary pressures and persisting economic and political uncertainty,” she said. “To this end we’ll be continuing our work with Government to encourage policies that help retailers keep prices down for consumers.”