UK shops' December sales fall for sixth straight year - BDO survey
Accountancy and business advisory firm BDO said its monthly High Street Sales Tracker (HSST) showed in-store high street sales fell by 1.9 percent year-on-year in December - an eleventh consecutive month of decline.
"Shoppers have exercised extreme caution or shopped strategically online, seeking out discounts rather than visiting bricks and mortar stores or making impulse purchases," she said, adding 2019 was set to be another challenging year for the sector.
Analysts have highlighted a disconnect between supportive economic factors - with consumers' real earnings growing and employment levels high - and an apparent reluctance to spend, partly due to uncertainty over Britain's departure from the European Union in March 2019.
Britain's economic growth slowed to a crawl at the end of 2018 and the housing market is stalling, according to data published on Friday, less than three months before Brexit day.
Clothing chain Next is the only major listed UK retailer to have reported on Christmas trade so far. It fared better than expected, with a late surge in online demand offsetting steep falls in store sales.
A raft of retailers are due to update next week, including Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Debenhams. (Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Mark Potter)
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