Retail sales unexpectedly fell by 1% over festive period

Shoppers spending habits have slowed. Credit: PA

Retail sales volumes dropped by 1% in December, performing far worse than experts had predicted over the vital Christmas period, the Office for National Statistics said.

The figures show that sales volumes were 1.7% below their pre-coronavirus February levels.

Non-food stores sales also fell by 2.1% over the month, with retailers stating that consumers are cutting back on spending because of increased prices.

The vital Christmas period proved tougher for UK retailers than experts had forecast.

It is the latest sign of the pressure the cost-of-living crisis is putting on households up and down the country.

Sales in food stores proved more resilient, with just a 0.3% drop in December. Sales in these shops had risen 1% in November, leading some to speculate buyers were stocking up early for Christmas.

ONS deputy director for surveys and economic indicators, Heather Bovill, said: “Retail sales dropped again in December, with feedback suggesting consumers cut back on their Christmas shopping due to affordability concerns.

“After last month’s boost as shoppers stocked up early, food sales fell back again in December with supermarkets reporting this was due to increased food prices and the rising cost of living.”

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