Jan 11, 2011
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Retail sales fall in December, outlook tough

Jan 11, 2011

Jan 11 - Retail sales fell in December for the first time since last April as heavy snow and concerns about the economic outlook deterred consumers during the Christmas shopping period, a survey showed on Tuesday.

Birmingham covered in snow - 18/12/2010

The British Retail Consortium said the value of sales dipped 0.3 percent in December from a year earlier on a like-for-like basis, following a 0.7 percent rise in November.

The trade body blamed the fall partly on the coldest December in 100 years, which disrupted road and rail transport and discouraged shoppers from venturing out. Non-food sales were hit the hardest.

The BRC said growing fears about public spending cuts, high unemployment and household incomes also contributed to the slowdown during the Christmas shopping period, a crucial time for retailers.

"We have seen resilient food sales -- we all have to eat -- but non-food has had a very tough time," BRC Director General Stephen Robertson said in an interview with Reuters Insider. "We have already seen a few retailers announcing that that is going to mean store closures in the coming year."

Total sales, which include new floorspace, rose 1.5 percent in December on the year, slowing from a 2.8 percent rise in November and well below the average for January to December 2010, which was also 2.8 percent.

There was a mixed picture for big-ticket items as discounts and promotions helped sales of some products like televisions and computers.

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, said December is normally the biggest month of the year for retailers, with sales volumes 20 to 30 percent higher than in other months.

"Very disappointingly, without the impact of the Arctic weather the results would have been noticeably better," she said. "2011 is set to be a challenging year."

The Office for National Statistics will release December retail sales figures on January 21.

(Reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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