By  on January 13, 2009

LONDON — While some U.K. retailers have reported better-than-expected Christmas trading in recent weeks — including Tesco plc — it seems conditions over the holidays remained tough on the British high street as a whole.


According to the British Retail Consortium’s retail sales monitor, same-store U.K. retail sales fell 3.3 percent during December, compared to the same period last year, while overall sales, including those in newly opened stores, fell by 1.4 percent.

The organization said Tuesday that the figures represented the worst December for British retailers since the survey began 14 years ago. “These are truly dreadful numbers,” said Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium. “Nonfood retailers had a horrid December despite a blizzard of promotions and deals, which would have hit margins. Many hard-pressed consumers couldn’t be seduced into shopping.”

The organization said food and footwear were the only sectors to show improvement during December, compared to the same period last year, while sales of clothing, furniture and homewares all fell. As proof of the trend, Tesco, the U.K.’s largest retailer, said its same-store U.K. sales, excluding gasoline, had risen 2.5 percent in the seven weeks to Jan. 10. The increase represents the smallest rise in Christmas sales at the retailer for the past decade.

Tesco’s group sales, which include sales at its international stores, rose by 11.6 percent during the period, driven by “rapid international expansion and steady growth in the U.K.,” Tesco stated, providing only percentage figures.

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