By Daniel Hunter

UK retailers endured a difficult Christmas period despite a strong growth of online sales, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

BRC figures show that retail sales fell 0.4% in December, compared with December 2013 when they had grown by 0.4%.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the BRC said December saw food sales grow for the first time since April.

But adding to evidence of the big supermarkets struggling, food sales were down 2.2% in the final quarter of 2014 compared with the same period in 2013.

Non-food products saw growth of 2.1% in the quarter, however, driven by huge discount events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Online sales faired much better in December, growing 7% compared with the previous year. But there were signs of a slow down as online sales grew 19% in December 2013.

In December, online accounted for 17% of non-food sales.

Helen Dickinson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said: “Despite Black Friday having dragged some of our pre-Christmas internet spending into November, sales online remained strong with December showing a 7% increase on the same period last year. This is especially good considering December 2013 saw the second highest growth ever recorded by our monitor."

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