Last-minute rush could not make up for weak December trading
The latest sales figures from the British Retail Consortium supports the growing view that it was a poor year for Christmas trading last year. The organisation's Retail Sales Monitor, run in conjunction with KPMG, said like-for-like sales for December 2004 were down 0.4 per cent on the equivalent period the year before.

However, total sales were up 2.5 per cent on the same period. The three-month trend showed that like-for-like sales were down 0.1 per cent from October to December, with total sales up 2.6 per cent.

December trading started slowly, the BRC said, with the pace only increasing in the final week before the holiday. This upturn was not enough to offset the previously sluggish sales though. Only food and drink retailers saw growth, fuelled by the long pre-Christmas week. Big-ticket sales of items such as furniture and homewares suffered, as did clothing and footwear.

BRC director general Kevin Hawkins said: 'These figures represent the worst Christmas for retailers in the past decade. However, it was far from the speculative hype of the worst Christmas in living memory proposed by some commentators.'