Official figures highlight December month-on-month retail sales fall

Retail sales in December dropped 1.9% from the previous month, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Estimates of the quantity bought in retail sales increased by 4.3% compared with December 2015 and fell by 1.9% compared with November 2016.

The largest contribution to the month-on-month fall came from non-food stores. However, garden centres reported patchy sales, with greater competition and a maturing Christmas offer cited as reasons.

The underlying trend remains one of growth with the 3 month on 3 month movement in the quantity bought increasing by 1.2%.

Average store prices increased by 0.9% on the year and for all retailing excluding fuel prices increased by 0.1%; the first increase since June 2014.

Online sales (excluding automotive fuel) increased year-on-year by 21.3%, but fell on the month by 5.3%; accounting for approximately 15% of all retail spending.

Other figures suggested Christmas sales ended well.

Kate Davies, ONS senior statistician said: "Retailers saw a strong end to 2016 with sales in the final quarter up 5.6% on the same period last year, although the amount bought fell between November and December once the effects of Christmas are removed. There were some notably strong figures from smaller retailers, in particular butchers, who reported a significant boost in sales in the run up to Christmas."

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