Retail sales advanced by value in December but volume slid, official data shows.

By value, sales excluding fuel rose by 2.3% year on year. However, volume was down by 2.1% 

Month on month, sales by value dropped 3.6% and volume fell 3.3%, with Black Friday boosting performance the previous month.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that, on an annual basis, volumes fell 2.8% in 2023 to the lowest level since 2018.

Non-food store sales volumes fell by 3.9% month on month. Food store sales volumes were down by 3.1% and non-store retailing – mainly ecommerce – was down by 2.1%.

Store categories such as sports equipment, games and toys, and watches and jewellery were among those to decline by volume.

The ONS said: ”Respondents reported a slow December because of cost-of-living pressures and reduced footfall.”

Fashion store volumes fell by 1.5% over the month and “retailers commented on a tough trading month, alongside the effect of starting their Sales period earlier than usual”.

PwC leader of industry for consumer markets Lisa Hooker said: “The scale of the decline will have surprised many, with retail sales volumes now falling well below pre-pandemic levels… The contrast between these figures and the better-reported sales announced by several large retailers this month is stark, albeit those numbers will have represented pounds in the till, including the impact of inflation and over a longer time period – including November, in most cases.

“However, this suggests that there may be bad news still to be reported by retailers that have yet to announce their Christmas trading.”