Retail sales slipped by 0.1% in volume terms in December, according to the Office for National Statistics, while excluding automotive fuel they dropped by a slightly larger 0.3%. Year-on-year the two measures showed rises of 0.3% and 1.1% respectively.
These were disappointing figures, confirming the absence of a meaningful consumer recovery as above-target inflation squeezes real incomes. The ONS says that the 12-month rise in overall sales volume was the weakest for a December since 1998 if you exclude snow-affected December 2010.
Many will see this as predictable in the light of the recent spate of high-profile high street closures, though there continue to be areas of considerable strength. John Lewis department store sales in the week to January 12 were up by 18.7% on a year earlier, for example.
But an across-the-board recovery in retail sales requires improved consumer confidence and real-income growth. The release is here.