Sales up in run-up to Christmas

This Is Local London: New figures show grocers, department stores and clothing shops, which had seen sales fall in the year to November, enjoyed a rebound over the festive shopping period New figures show grocers, department stores and clothing shops, which had seen sales fall in the year to November, enjoyed a rebound over the festive shopping period

Retail sales gained momentum over the first part of December after a lacklustre performance in the autumn, the CBI said today.

Grocers, department stores and clothing shops, which had seen sales fall in the year to November, enjoyed a rebound over the festive shopping period, the latest distributive trades survey showed.

In the poll of 106 firms, 48% of respondents reported that their sales were up on a year ago, while 14% said they were down. The balance of plus 34% was above expectations for a figure of 24%.

Barry Williams, Asda's chief merchandising officer and chairman of the survey panel, said retailers expected robust growth in sales volumes to continue in the year to January.

He said: "After a disappointing couple of months, sales volumes in December recovered their sparkle, beating retailers' expectations.

"Customers have clearly held off spending through the autumn and we're only now seeing them start to hit the stores."

The survey failed to inspire shares in London retail stocks, with Marks & Spencer down more than 3% after a downgrade from broker UBS.

Investor uncertainty over the strength of Christmas trading was also reflected in falls for supermarkets Tesco and Sainsbury's.

Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said that with inflation running well above earnings growth for a prolonged period it was likely people have felt the need to control their spending.

However, he added: "On the positive side, markedly rising employment and a strengthening housing market are supportive to retail sales, while consumer confidence is at a much stronger level than it has been for a long time."

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