(SHARECAST) – Heavy snow and worries about jobs and incomes caused a drop in UK retail sales last month, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
Like-for-like sales fell 0.3 percent in December versus the year before, while sales including new stores rose just 1.5 percent.
“The unusually early winter weather made a difficult Christmas worse,” said the BRC’s director general Stephen Robertson. “December was always likely to be similarly unspectacular but the snow and ice dealt an extra blow to business for many retailers.”
Food sales grew by 2.1 percent on a like-for-like basis during the three months to December. They had a “good” pre-Christmas week but fell away after the big day.
Non-food sales were down 0.8 percent over the period, but it could have been worse had shoppers not hit the sales in search of clearance bargains ahead of the VAT increase.
“Generally, people did spend on food for the big day. They had a celebration, but a combination of weather and worries led them to cut back on presents,” Robertson said.
“This is no return to the dire picture two years ago, but the message for the chancellor is: concentrate on delivering growth and leave any new burdens out of your March Budget.”
A number of retailers have already reported on Christmas trade with just a handful managing to avoid a hit from the awful weather that brought much of Britain to a standstill last month.