Retail spending was boosted in December by people buying cozy clothes and jewelry as Christmas gifts

Retail industry figures showed shoppers ditched their best party wear over Christmas this year, while jewelry was one of the most-purchased gifts of the holiday season.

Although the spread of the Omicron variant has raised concerns about potential closures across the UK, retailers have published a strong set of findings.

Total UK retail sales rose 2.1 per cent in the month to January 1 compared to the previous year, the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG showed, as the public ended their Christmas shopping in strong fashion.

However, the figure represents a slowdown from the 5 per cent growth observed in the retail sector in November and well below the overall figure for 2021 of 9.9 per cent.

Compared to December 2020, when much of the UK was under strict lockdown for some of the month, online sales are down 13.9 per cent this year as shoppers return to High Street stores.

Over the three months through December, total food sales rose 0.4 percent, while non-food retail sales rose 4.8 percent.

More about selling by pieces

“Retail sales are on hold until December,” said Dickinson, chief executive of BRC, despite concerns about Omicron.

She added, “Many people have chosen to shop online instead of traveling to the main streets and nearby malls.

“Loungewear is back in fashion, with many anticipating the possibility of future restrictions. Meanwhile, the return of work-from-home advice and a reduction in Christmas social events has slowed sales of formal wear.

“Faced with rising case numbers and supply chain issues, people in retail have done everything they can to ensure that everyone gets what they want this Christmas.”

However, the numbers also showed a slowdown in activity through the end of the month.

Paul Martin, head of UK retail at KPMG, said: “After a strong November, retail sales continued to grow in December by just over 2 per cent compared to 2020, despite the spread of the Omicron variant and updated government guidance spending has slowed in recent weeks. of the year.

Consumers have continued to head to Main Street for their festive gifts, determined to secure the gifts they want and not let online deliveries arrive in time to chance.

“Shoes was the only online category that experienced moderate growth as overall online sales continued to decline, declining over 8 percent in December, albeit against strong comparisons in 2020.”

Separately, figures from Barclaycard showed a jump in ‘core’ spending but also that the Omicron threat has curbed spending on hospitality and leisure.

The company’s credit card spending data showed total spending rose 12.2 percent in December on the back of a 13.7 percent increase in core spending, driven by supermarket shopping and fuel.

Restaurants saw spending fall 14.1 percent versus pre-pandemic levels as of 2019.

Jose Carvalho, Head of Consumer Products at Barclaycard, said: “While levels of consumer card spending rose in 2019, December was a mixed picture for retail, hospitality and leisure, as restrictions to tackle the spread of Omicron began to take effect.

“More Britons were either isolating or choosing to stay at home due to the new alternative, which has hampered face-to-face retailers as well as hospitality and leisure outlets.”

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