Of the 130 retail companies surveyed by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), 44 per cent said sales volumes were up on the year in November, while 17 per cent said they had fallen, giving a difference, or net balance, of 27 per cent.
Meanwhile, a net balance of 38 per cent expected sales to grow at a stronger pace in December, according to the figures released yesterday by the CBI.
Employment growth also remained robust and expectations of hiring have hit their highest level since 2002.
The net balance of businesses which said employment had grown on the year was 14 per cent, while the net balance of firms that expected better jobs growth in the year to December was 16 per cent – the highest since 2002.
“The fundamentals for consumer spending this Christmas are favourable, with confidence pretty elevated, employment high and rising, and consumer price inflation [1.3 per cent in October] very low,” said economist Howard Archer of market analysts IHS.
Average selling prices set by retailers are rising at their slowest pace since 2009, with a net balance of 12 per cent report price rises.
More businesses are also investing in their online presence, with a net balance of 78 per cent reporting growth in online sales over the 12 months to November.
“It’s no secret that it has been a demanding year for the retail industry, but shopkeepers haven’t been pulling their punches when it comes to getting shoppers through their doors – borne out with the lowest essential item inflation in five years and growing online sales,” said Barry Williams, CBI distributive trades survey chairman.