The figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the total value of sales fell 0.8 per cent compared with December 2007. This compares with a fall of 1.4 per cent recorded by the BRC’s Retail Sales Monitor published last week.
After several months of unexpectedly strong official retail sales figures, a sharp drop from November’s positive year-on-year growth means the ONS figures are now painting a similarly gloomy picture to the BRC’s own results.
The ONS report also confirms non-food retailers are suffering most with sales largely driven by price cutting, food retailing proving more resilient and online sales boosted by Christmas.
Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “The official figures are now painting a more realistic picture of how tough conditions are for customers and retailers.
“A poor Christmas for retailing overall hides the contrast between sectors. A triple whammy of dramatically declining sales, margin-crushing discounts and rising costs hit non-food retailers hardest overwhelming some businesses and destroying retail jobs. Food sales were more resilient – we all have to eat.
“Our own results show most people believe we have been in recession for months and have been behaving as if we were for some time. With customers already budgeting defensively as job fears mount, confirmation of recession can’t weaken confidence much more.”