By Daniel Hunter

Official retail figures, released today (Friday) by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), confirm that December was a tough month for customers and retailers.

Excluding fuel, the ONS numbers show the total value of sales (not seasonally adjusted) was up 1.8 per cent in December compared with a year ago. In November the growth rate was 2.5 per cent. This is a broadly similar trend to the BRC's own figures, released last week.

British Retail Consortium Director General, Helen Dickinson, said: "This confirms our own findings that it was a cautious Christmas for many of us. With many household budgets still feeling the squeeze and no signs of economic challenges receding any time soon, this led to a respectable rather than spectacular result during the most crucial trading period of the year.

"As with our own figures, the internet was the standout performer — our own figures would have shown subzero growth in non-food sales if it hadn't been for online's significant year on year rise.

"Even food, usually dependable at this time of year, showed a slowdown in growth. This suggests that relentlessly tough times led many to ‘trade down' to cheaper and own-label brands, but also that many economised so that they had more money to spend treating family and friends with nice presents."

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