UK retailers enjoyed an excellent holiday season as sales increased more than was forecasted by economists during December. The surge was led by the department stores as well as smaller shops in the all-important holiday shopping season.
Sales increased by 2.6% over November, showed data released by the Office for National Statistics in London. That is the strongest December sales since they started records in 1996. The estimate by a group of economists was for an increase of just 0.3% for December. Sales in Department stores were up 8.7%, which was a record increase.
The new sales data indicates consumer spending was gaining strength at the conclusion of the 2013 fourth quarter, after sales in retailers dropped 0.9% during October and grew just slightly during November.
The figures could counter some of the pessimism over the sluggish economy following stagnation in industrial production and construction dropped in November.
The increase for December sales matched a record that was previously set in February of 2012, said the ONS.
This new data from ONS contrasts with updates during the holiday season from some of the largest retailers in Britain, including Marks & Spencer and Tesco Plc, which had reported that sales were lower. During the most recent fourth quarter, sales increased by 0.4%, said the statistics office.
Sales were up in December by 5.3% compared to the same month one year ago, which is the most in the past nine years. Excluding gasoline, retail sales were up 2.8% during December compared to November and were 6.1% higher than the same month one year ago.
The sterling pound was up 0.5% versus the dollar and sat at $1.643 Friday at noon in London.
Sales on an adjusted non-seasonal basis at larger stores were up by 2.6% from the same period a year ago, with smaller stores, those companies with fewer than 100 employees, up by 8.1%.
While the economy in Britain is strengthening and there has been a cool off in inflation, wage growth for the region remains subdued. That has been successful in keeping the consumer in a squeeze.
The third biggest UK supermarket chain J Sainsbury Plc, lowered its outlook for full year sales in January amidst what it said would be a tough end to our financial year.