BRC survey dispels pre-Christmas forecasts
There was Christmas cheer for retailers as like-for-like sales rose 2.5 per cent year on year during December, according to the BRC-KPMG sales monitor.

BRC director general Kevin Hawkins said: 'These results are almost exactly in line with our expectations - which were for like-for-like sales growth similar to last year's out-turn. While some retailers have performed strongly, the average experience was broadly as we expected - not a bonanza, but a long way from the disaster forecast by at least once City luminary.'

Food and drink had another good month, helped by the usual stocking-up for Christmas and New Year. Wine and champagne also did well, encouraged by festive promotions.

Clothing sales were better than in November, but not as good as October. Trade continued to suffer from the mild weather in the first part of the month, but picked up just before Christmas, helped by colder weather, special discounts and the start of some clearance Sales.

Footwear sales showed some overall growth, in contrast to November's sharp decline. Trends for electricals were broadly similar to those seen in the past few months, with sales mixed across sectors and stores. Flat-screen LCD TVs and laptops remained big sellers, though growth was slower against last year's strong comparatives.

It was a better month for department stores as trade strengthened nearer Christmas, after a lacklustre start to the month. Discounts and promotions at DIY and gardening outlets gave a modest improvement for some retailers.

Homewares picked up after slowing in November, but sales were often helped by promotions and early clearance Sales - therefore, sales varied across both sectors and stores.

Furniture and carpet sales showed some improvement, but remained lower than a year ago. Toiletries and cosmetics picked up after a slower November, to show good gains compared to last year.

Home entertainments were mixed with some benefiting from discounts and promotions, but others being hit by tough competition. Mail order sales showed some improvement, helped by colder weather and Christmas purchases.

The like-for-like sales growth rate for the three months to November remained flat at 1.9 per cent. Total sales growth for the three months to December slowed to 4 per cent, from 4.3 per cent for the three months to November - reflecting the continued increase of retail space.

KPMG head of retail Helen Dickinson said: 'For many high street retailers, much of the sales growth increase has been driven by heavy discounting in the run-up to Christmas. This combined with the increasing cost pressures that many are under will mean that the gap between winners and losers will widen further. We have seen two casualties in the New Year already.'