Official statistics released last week show that pre-Christmas sales lured shoppers to spend, providing a brief amount of relief after what was a tough year for many retailers.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that retail volumes rose just 0.6% during December, rounding off an annual rise of 2.6%, said to be in line with economists’ forecasts.
December’s retail sales were the best performance since January 2011. Sales in the months to December 31 were up 1.1%, the biggest increase since August 2010.
Reuters said that December’s strong performance “may prove a flash in the pan”, driven by earlier-than-usual discounting by retailers and helped by Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday. The industry was also free from the disruption caused by snow in December 2010.
However retail sales figures confirmed that clothing stores were one of the main drivers of growth. Non-food store, including those selling cosmetics, books and watches and jewellery made up 13.5% of all festive sales, while clothing retailers accounted for a weighty 12.2% of sales.
In the jewellery industry the reports from retailers show a largely successful Christmas 2011, with only Signet Group and Tiffany & Co. reporting slower trading in the UK and Europe.
British jewellery company Asprey reported a 36% increase in sales in December at its London flagship store, while independent retailer Kabiri enjoyed a 120% increase in sales value at its Marylebone store.