Food sales drive 'bumper' Christmas for retailers

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Hunger for a festive feast led to a “bumper” Christmas and strong finish to 2016 for retailers, a report says.

Like-for-like sales increased by 1% in December compared with the previous year, said the British Retail Consortium (BRC)-KPMG research.

Food sales were the major contributor to the growth, with non-food sales sluggish, the BRC said.

Morrisons releases its Christmas trading update on Tuesday, with Tesco and Sainsbury’s later this week.

“Despite the slow start to the Christmas trading period, the week itself was a bumper one and exceeded expectations,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC.

“It delivered the majority of sales growth for the month, proving even bigger than the Black Friday period- which is the reverse of what we saw the year before.”

Shoppers held out until the last moment for their festive needs, with sales for Christmas week up 40% compared with other weeks of the month, she added.

Sales grew by 1.2% overall in 2016, but Ms Dickinson warned that 2017 would be a challenge with inflation set to pick up, “and persisting economic and political uncertainty”.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, who help to produce the report, suggested that consumers had “splashed out on treating themselves” ahead of predicted price rises next year.

A raft of retailers are due to report their Christmas trading statements this week.

Later on Tuesday, Morrisons is expected to report sales growth of 1.1% for the nine weeks to 1 January, according to an average of analysts’ forecasts, a fifth consecutive quarter of growth.

Sainsbury’s publishes its update on Wednesday, while Marks and Spencer and Tesco report on Thursday.

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