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Online sales leap by more than 18% over a ‘dazzling’ Christmas

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Online sales rose strongly over the Christmas period, new figures showed today, with their strongest gain since last Christmas.

Internet, mail order and telephone sales lifted by 18.5% in December compared to the same month in 2010, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for December 2011. That’s the strongest gain reported by the BRC monitor since December 2010 when non-food, non-store sales rose by 18%.

The cheering picture came against a backdrop of sales growth across the UK’s retail sector over Christmas. Like-for-like sales were up by 2.2%, compared to the same time in the previous year, while total sales were up by 4.1%. In December 2010 heavy snowfall meant that like-for-like sales were down by 0.3% compared to the same time the previous year, while total sales were up by only 1.5%. The predictions had been for a 2.3% fall in high street sales.

But Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, warned the positive results were likely to be the exception to a gloomy run of retail figures. He said: “A better than hoped-for December closed a relentlessly tough year for retailers, but these figures hinged on a dazzling last pre-Christmas week and were boosted by some major one-off factors. We’re not witnessing any fundamental change in customers’ circumstances.”

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, said December’s figures showed the strongest growth in food sales of the year, while clothing and footwear sales were also “spectacular,” thanks to deals and promotions.

“Whilst these results must be viewed in a positive light,” she said, “it must also be noted that they have come at the end of a year which witnessed declines in most non-food sectors and are against December 2010’s weak results, which saw sales badly affected by poor weather.

“Sadly no-one expects this level of demand to be indicative of the year ahead.”

However the figures come a day after Deloitte research showed an 11% jump in the number of retail businesses going into administration. Its figures showed 183 businesses failed in 2011, up from 165 in 2010. So far in 2012 retailers including La Senza and Blacks Leisure Group have already gone into administration.

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