Mixed picture for Christmas sales


Christmas shoppers seem more likely to splash out on food than presents this year - suggest recent figures that paint a subdued picture of the UK high street.

Heston Blumenthal's Hidden Orange Christmas pudding for Waitrose has sold out for the second year running, forcing the supermarket to order more, while John Lewis revealed sales fell 1.2% year-on-year last week.

The dismal sales figures from John Lewis follow a 3.3% drop in the previous week's trading.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Global Insight warned retailers may struggle to get consumers to splash out given the gloomy economic environment.

"Given that John Lewis department store sales are widely seen as a bellwether for the state of consumer spending, the year-on-year dip in sales over the past couple of weeks fuel suspicion that retailers are having a very challenging Christmas sales period," he said.

Help needed
The data came as the British Retail Consortium released research calling for a "credible plan" for economic growth. The research into sales, employment and value detailed how the retail sector equates to 20% of UK GDP, more than 10% of total employment and delivers better value than the rest of Europe in terms of prices.

The BRC is using the research to call on the Government to keep costs such as business rates under control, to help consumers by dropping plans for a rise in fuel duty and to tackle red tape.

Sell out
Meanwhile, it seems shoppers are content to splash out on fancy food with Waitrose selling out of Heston Blumenthal's famous Christmas pudding, despite ordering three times as much stock as last year.

The 1.2kg pudding, which has a candied orange inside, sold out last year and turned up on eBay attracting bids of up to £250. So far this year the gourmet puddings are already being offered on the auction website for up to £150.

Sales for the £13.99 pudding, along with its new 227g version, had already surpassed 2010 levels by the beginning of November, forcing Waitrose to now increase total orders to ten times last year's figure.
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