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Published on January 10th, 2017 | by The GC Team

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Last-minute purchases drive December retail sales

December ended on a positive note for retailers, with like-for-like sales rising 1% on the previous year, and 1.7% on a total basis.

Retailers were helped by the timing of Christmas, which fell on a Sunday, giving consumers the chance to use the Saturday for a final dash to the shops and delivering a last-minute boost to sales.

“It was all to play for in the final month,” said British Retail Consortium Chief Executive Helen Dickinson. “Despite the slow start to the Christmas trading period, the week itself was a bumper one and exceeded expectations. It delivered the majority of sales growth for the month, proving even bigger than the Black Friday period, which is the reverse of what we saw the year before.”

Dickinson added that December was a polarised month as shoppers held out for Christmas week, which saw sales up around 40% compared to the other weeks of the month. Food sales were the major contributor to total growth, while non-food sales were sluggish overall, despite a strong performance by categories driven by gifting items.

Online retail sales remained strong during the month, with non-food growth up 7.2% compared to last year. Penetration rates also remained high, at 24.3%.

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail at KPMG, noted that most online categories reported growth.

“However,” he added, “whilst the shopping channel continues to grow in popularity, retailers will need to battle with the logistics of fulfilment and the flurry of goods returned post-Christmas.

“Retailers will be hoping this doesn’t result in too much of a hangover.”

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