By Marcus Leach

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) statistics declared this morning (Tuesday) spell impeding disaster for the high street, according to Ellen Flood, Director of Shopow.

UK retail sales values were 1.6% lower on a like-for-like basis from November 2010, when sales had risen 0.7%. On a total basis, sales were up only 0.7%, against a 2.8% increase in November 2010.

On both measures, sales performance was the weakest since May. Even the much vaunted online retail sector experienced a downturn in growth were sales finished up 8.6% up on a year ago, the weakest since March and half the previous November's increase.

As retailers struggle to get into peoples empty wallets, the sales have started even earlier this year, with some even claiming that the Boxing Day sale has already started, as retailers attempt to shift a massive encumbrance of unsold stock. With 85 million visits due to online retailers daily, and some 1,000 purchases made a second — online retailers are committed to snatch and grab from their high street rivals.

The level of promotions is on a par with the “panic sales” of 2008 and while this year’s promotions are largely more structured and considered, this is likely to have an impact on margins. The effects of a combination of reduced margins and low sales will come as retailers approach Christmas more in hope than expectation. Moreover, the weather is set to take a turn for the worse this week and with more people feeling a pinch in their pockets, online shopping sales have surged as people shy away from Britain’s high streets.

“The peak in online Christmas sales has been brought forward to this week, a whole 21 days earlier than expected. The recession and strong demand from consumers hunting for deals online has lead to an all out price war, with many high street retailers losing their nerve in light of plummeting profit margins. There is a huge concern that they will lose out on business to the online retails as they hunt for deals," Ellen Flood, Director of Shopow, said on BBC Breakfast this morning.

“We are experiencing a huge surge in demand from consumers hunting for deals and bargains on Christmas presents, we expect a record rise in online spend this Christmas forced in part by the recession and by ever tightening purse strings; creating a an all out nation of bargain hunters”

In the run up to Christmas consumers are expected to spend a whopping £7.75 billion on online shopping according to e-tailing trade association IMRG. An estimated £13 billion will be spent across all sectors online, however figures on the high street are expected to fall by 2.1 per cent in spite of so many sales starting early. It is clear that this year’s success stories will be told with a distinctly online lilt.

Either way, times are hard for the consumer; the likely impact will be at the tills.