Discounts and online spending drive retail sales higher in December

Retail sales have nudged higher over the past month on the back of early discounting and strong online sales, according to new figures.

High street spending increased by 0.7% over December, according to BDO’s latest monthly High Street Sales Tracker.

The last week before Christmas was a particularly busy period for retailers, as in-store sales jumped 8.6% for the week.

But sales growth for the month was modest on the back of a slow start to trading in December.

Meanwhile, online sales were particularly strong, rising 24.5%, which the tracker highlighted as the strongest monthly growth in digital sales since 2013.

BDO suggested that the late timing of Black Friday and Cyber Monday helped to drive more sustained discounting throughout the month.

Although total sales grew, the fashion sector saw a weak month as total in-store sales declined 2.4% as sales slipped in the final week before Christmas.

Lifestyle stores had a much stronger performance, reporting their first month of sales growth since January 2018.

Homeware sales were also strong, rising 4.2% on the back of discounting and the rush for Christmas gifts.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “In terms of retail spending, December has provided a glimmer of hope for the retail sector as we saw positive first and last weeks of the month as well as a good month for lifestyle and homewares.

“January tends to be a positive month as people are more inclined to spend in the sales, however it’ll be interesting this year to see if many have already done their bargain-hunting in December.

“This month’s figures potentially paint a bleak picture for the first month of 2020 on the high street.”