Central London’s retail like-for-like sales in December were up 12% over a year ago, when sales had fallen 0.7% as the financial crisis hit consumer confidence.

The December figure is the best since the British Retail Consortium started its survey in 2002.

Retail footfall in December fell back below its year-earlier level to show its weakest performance since September. According to Synovate, footfall in central London was 4.3% lower than December 2008.

Food sales held up well, and clothing and footwear were driven by wintry weather as well as gift buying. Beauty products and jewellery were popular, and homewares showed gains but against very weak comparatives in December 2008. Big ticket items performed well in the Sales.

Stephen Robertson, director general, British Retail Consortium, said:  “This is a dazzling performance, London’s best December sales growth since this survey began in 2002 and all the more impressive following a strong November. The result is boosted because the comparison is with terrible figures a year ago when financial turmoil hit London consumers especially hard but this is outstanding growth by any interpretation.

“Generally customers were a lot more positive than the year before, so more willing and able to spend. A big Saturday Boxing Day start to many post-Christmas sales produced a strong ‘extra’ day’s trading for lots of retailers and the weak pound tempted overseas shoppers to London.

“Wintry weather kept people away from shops on some days but when they did go they spent more. But, given the prospects for jobs, wages and taxes in 2010, don’t assume customers will go on spending like this.”

Helen Dickinson, head of retail, KPMG, said: “Although the rest of the country saw a relatively slow build up to early Christmas trade in November, London bucked this trend and this strong performance continued in December. These are great figures and Christmas really provided an opportunity for department stores to outperform, leading to a pronounced polarisation between retailers who got the proposition right and those that did not. December’s results also showed the growing importance of post-Christmas trading and the ongoing weakness of the pound has certainly continued to attract overseas visitors.”