By Daniel Hunter

Official retail figures, released today (Thursday) by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), confirm that November was a cautious month with many of us holding back on pre-Christmas spending.

Excluding fuel, the ONS numbers show the total value of sales (not seasonally adjusted) was up 2.5 per cent in November compared with a year ago, still below inflation of 2.7 per cent during the same period. In October the growth rate was 2.1 per cent. This is a broadly similar trend to the BRC's own figures, released last week.

"This confirms our own findings that Christmas shopping was slow out of the starting blocks in November, as pressures on budgets and fears about the future left many of us reluctant to commit to spending early," British Retail Consortium Director General, Helen Dickinson, said.

"But it's the finish which matters, and the signs are that sales and shopper numbers have been building at a respectable pace throughout December, especially in recent weeks. With Christmas falling on a Tuesday this year this weekend will be the critical one — I'm expecting a last-minute rush but overall in sales terms it will be neither a bumper Christmas nor a disaster."

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