December Online Sales Boom As Stores Struggle
Online stores saw a boom in December sales while high street retailers with low web presence struggled for customers, a new report suggests.
Figures from accountancy firm BDO showed December non-store sales leaping 31.1%, rising to growth of 55.7% in the week before Christmas.
However traditional high street sales dropped by 2.2% last month in an "underwhelming" Christmas for many retailers.
The online boom has been supported by research by independent retail consultant Richard Hyman.
He told the Financial Times that online purchases accounted for almost 20% of total retail sales - up 5% on 2012 - with non-food online sales accounting for around a third of all Christmas sales.
The figures showed the sales surge hoped for by many shops failed to materialise in the crucial trading period.
Like-for-like sales - excluding online trade - dropped by as much as 6.7% in the week to December 22.
BDO said even a 3.5% surge in the week to December 29 failed to boost the overall performance for the month which was down 2.2% on December 2012.
December 2012 had seen a 1.9% rise compared with the same month in 2011.
In a statement the accountancy firm said: "Following on from what was a solid month of trading in November, many retailers will have been left disappointed by a month of lacklustre consumer demand in the crucial Christmas trading period."
"Pent-up demand was expected to play a larger role as we moved closer to Christmas day but in reality it never fully took hold."
Bad weather amid the pre-Christmas storms hit trading for many, with fashion sales in particular suffering, down 4.6% last month.
Figures so far from major retailers have confirmed it was a mixed Christmas.
Debenhams issued a shock profit warning last week after suffering dismal trading and resorting to aggressive discounting.
But figures showed robust performances from fashion chain Next and department store rivals John Lewis and House of Fraser.
Marks & Spencer, which also slashed prices in the run up to Christmas, is expected to reveal the results of a tough season for the group when it reports on Thursday.
Data from Barclaycard highlighted a marked trend for shoppers to target discount days for the best deals, with the value of transactions falling by 3.5% last month as shops cut prices to lure in consumers.
BDO track sales across 85 mid-tier retailers with around 10,000 stores, showed while it was an "underwhelming Christmas for most", there were robust performances for some.
Closely watched sales figures from the British Retail Consortium are due on Friday, which will also shed further light on how the sector performed over Christmas.
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