Retailers hoping for a last minute Christmas sales rush were bitterly disappointed, as figures suggest it was the worst festive period since 2008.
According to BDO’s monthly high street sales tracker, retailers suffered a 5.3 per cent drop in year-on-year sales for December – the worst monthly results in seven years.
No retail sub-sector survived unscathed.
Sales of lifestyle goods were down 3.7 per cent year-on-year, while fashion stores experienced a like-for-like sales drop of 5.4 per cent. Homeware retailers did see 16 per cent growth, but BDO’s index for non-store sales, grew at the slowest rate since 2010, up a relatively poor 7.5 per cent.
A rally between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day helped dampen some of the worst performance, but despite this, sales in the last week of the month fell 2.6 per cent compared with the same week last year.
BDO put much of the damage down to the warmest December on record, which hurt winter lines, as well as record rainfall.
Reduced discounting also deterred shoppers, many of whom waited until after Christmas to swoop in on bargains in the Boxing Day sales.
Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said “Many retailers had held out for a last minute sales Christmas rush that never arrived.”
“People have been much savvier about bargain hunting this year. After Black Friday, many shoppers seem to have sat tight and waited for the sales to start on 25 December.
"Early indications are that activity in January strengthened, so retailers will be hoping they can claw back some ground in the traditional January sales period, but it’s clear the overall picture is one of reduced spending.”