Retail sales by value jumped 7.2%,excluding petrol, in December against last year, driven by small non-food stores.
Excluding petrol, sales volumes jumped 6.1% in December - the fastest annual growth in five years.
According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), month-on-month sales by value grew 2.8% last month.
The figures contrast dramatically with the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) data, which showed that retail sales by value edged up just 0.4% in December. The BRC’s figures are calculated from data collected from its members.
According to the ONS data, small stores recorded an 8.1% increase in sales by value year-on-year, driven by non-food retailers. This compares with a 2.6% increase in the amount spent in large stores.
The average weekly spend in December was £8.8bn, up from £8.5bn last year. The amount spent in the five-week December period was £44.1bn.
Internet sales surged 11.8% in December against last year.
The ONS recorded a 1.6% increase in the quantity bought in the 12 months of 2013 against the 12 months of 2012, while the amount spent jumped 2.6% in 2013 against 2012.
The ONS said month-on-month the performance of retail volumes was “strong”, jumping 2.8% in December. All store types recorded an increase in volumes but department stores were the biggest winners, posting an 8.7% month-on-month increase.
But the ONS said: “The underlying pattern in the data as suggested by the three month-on-three month movement shows much weaker growth (0.4%) than suggested by the year-on-year increase (5.3%). Contractions in the quantity bought in food stores and petrol stations continued to offset growth in the quantity bought in non-food stores and non-store retailing.”
KPMG UK head of retail David McCorquodale said: “This month’s ONS figures, boosted by having Black Friday and Christmas in the same period, reflect the fact that 2013 saw the return of growth to the high street – fragile as that growth may appear. The recession is over and, at the successful retailers, investment has already resumed. It is not too late for others to join the investment race but if they can’t snap out of survival mode, survival itself will become much harder.”
But PwC chief economist John Hawksworth cautioned that “the picture for the fourth quarter as a whole was somewhat less positive, with retail sales volume growth up only 0.4% on the previous quarter”.
He added: “Consumers are still spending, but there remains an element of underlying caution about future prospects and individual retailers have seen very mixed results over the Christmas period.”