LONDON: High street sales in the UK fell in December for the fourth consecutive year despite a "stellar performance" in the week leading up to Christmas Day, the latest industry figures have shown.
According to the respected BDO High Street Sales Tracker, which checks weekly sales at more than 70 mid-market retailers with some 10,000 individual stores, like-for-like sales were 0.1% lower than in December 2015.
Consultancy firm BDO said a decline of 0.1% may appear to be marginal but that followed a 5.3% fall in the same month last year, which was the worst month since December 2008.
"With such a weak base for December 2015, any further decline can only be seen as a poor result for retailers," said Sophie Michael, BDO's Head of Retail and Wholesale.
"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 a falling pound," she added.
However, on a more positive note, the report said the slump in total sales could have been a lot worse were it not for a "stellar performance" in the week before Christmas when sales increased 11.7% year-on-year. BDO said retailers gained from Christmas Day falling on a Sunday.
There was also good news for retailers with an online presence because online sales soared 51% in the week to 25th December and this helped to lift total online sales growth to 19% over the month.
BDO attributed the strength of online sales in December partly to overseas shoppers taking advantage of the weakened pound.
"We have seen a shift towards online for a number of years but it was more pronounced in December partly because the weak pound drew spend from overseas," said Michael in comments reported by the Guardian. "It's also the convenience and comfort of being able to shop from your own home."
Data sourced from BDO, Guardian; additional content by Warc staff