Retail sales volumes in December rose 0.3% compared to November, below than the 1.1% lift expected by analysts, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Sales volumes of food edged up 0.3% with non-food growing 0.1%.

The ONS said that sales rose 2.1% by volume year-on-year in December, which was again less than the 3% rise anticipated, with food sales increased 2.8% while non-food climbed 0.7%.

Clothing, textile and footwear experienced the biggest rise, with growth of 4.7%. Non-store retailing, which includes online, grew 9.4%.

In the three months to December 31 sales volume increased 0.7% compared to the previous three months.

Year-on-year, total sales volume rose 2.7% in the three month period, with food growing 1.8% and non-food increasing 2.5%, with the largest rise again coming from apparel, which jumped 7%.

Barclays head of retail and wholesale Richard Lowe said: “Although these figures came in lower than expectations, the general feeling is that 2009 ended on a relatively high note for retailers. Christmas trading proved positive as consumers upped their purchasing, releasing some of the pent-up demand in the market. The majority of trading updates at the end of 2009 were also positive, offering some cheer to the sector as the year ended.  

“Retailers will look to the start of the New Year with an air of cautious optimism.  They will be encouraged by some momentum from December, although it remains to be seen to what extent the reinstating of VAT at 17.5 per cent will have displaced demand from the early months of this year, particularly for household goods. The industry will hold its breath for any changes brought-on following the election.”