UK retail sales growth in December grew 4.2% on a like-for-like basis, making it the best December retailers have experienced in four years.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) sales on a total basis grew 6% against a fall of 1.4% last December.

Food sales growth was the highest it has been since June, partly due to higher food price inflation, whilst clothing and footwear sales picked up pace helped by the cold weather.

Non-food non-store sales also benefitted in part from the cold weather with sales up 26.5% on a year ago compared with a 16.9% growth in November.

BRC Director General Stephen Robertson said: “These are stronger figures than we dared hope for. After a surprisingly muted November, this is the best total sales growth for a December since 2005 and goes well beyond just making up for the sales fall the sector suffered a year ago. The figures were certainly helped by the comparison with last December’s terrible results but customers clearly felt more confident about spending than they have for some time. Sales growth was also helped by the VAT cut dropping out of the 12-month comparison, December being the first and only month where the 15 per cent rate is the same as a year earlier.” 

He added: “Snow kept people away from the shops for a time but they made up for that in the days just before Christmas and as sales events began immediately afterwards. But, with customers now reacquainting themselves with concerns about jobs and tax rises there is a risk that a healthy December may be only a temporary respite on the painful road to recovery.”