• Like-for-like sales edged up 1% year-on-year
  • Non-food online sales growth halved year-on-year
  • Food sales recorded the highest three-month average since 2013

Retail sales increased in December as grocery sales recorded their highest rate of growth for more than three years.

Sales across the industry increased 1% on a like-for-like basis last month, compared to December 2015.

According to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, total retail sales climbed 1.7% in the five weeks to December 31, compared to the same month a year ago.

The BRC said the majority of December’s growth was delivered in the final week before Christmas, which proved to be “even bigger than the Black Friday period” – reversing last year’s trend.

Over the wider three-month period to December 31, food revenues advanced 1.1% on a like-for-like basis and 2.4% on a total sales basis.

It marked the highest three-month average growth in total food sales since September 2013.

Non-food like-for-like sales rose 1.1% across the three months to December 31, with total sales up 1.3%.

However, that represented the lowest three-month average growth in total non-food sales since October 2012.

Online and digital

Online sales surged 7.2% across the three months, while in-store revenues dipped 1.2% on a total sales basis 1.4% in like-for-like terms.

Digital non-food sales jumped 9.5% year-on-year in the three months to December 31.

Online sales of non-food products increased 7.2% in the shorter five-week period to December 31, although this marked the first time in four months that online non-food sales had grown below 10%.

KPMG’s UK head of retail Paul Martin told Retail Week: “These are some of the first signs that the market is not slowing down but starting to show signs of maturity where double digit growth rates are not going to be possible every month across every category anymore.

”The 2015 Christmas period was the big bad year for the grocers and this festive period is where they have recovered, meaning it’s easier to post postive comparables. This wasn’t the case for non-food so its more difficult to deliver those barnstorming numbers.”

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “December is the most important trading period of the year and with sales across 2016 growing more slowly than the previous year, it was all to play for in the final month.

“Despite the slow start to the Christmas trading period, the week itself was a bumper one and exceeded expectations.

“It delivered the majority of sales growth for the month, proving even bigger than the Black Friday period – which is the reverse of what we saw the year before.”