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High street sees fourth poor December in a row

06 January 2017

Christmas spending splurge fails to push sales into black

The UK’s high street failed to rally at the end of a dismal year of trading, figures released today by BDO reveal.

December’s like-for-like sales growth was -0.1%, according to BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker (HSST). The negative figure means the UK has now seen four consecutive Decembers with no high street sales growth.

Year on year sales of fashion goods declined -1.07% in December, but the overall figure was pushed toward parity by like-for-like increases in the lifestyle (+2.4%) and homewares (+2.6%) sectors.

While December’s decline of -0.1% may appear marginal, it is coming off of a negative base of -5.3% for the same month last year, which was the worst month since December 2008. A further decline from such a weak base will come as a serious disappointment for retailers.

However, many stores did manage to capitalise on what was expected to be a very strong week leading up to Christmas Day, which this year fell on a Sunday. In that week overall sales were up by 11.7% year on year – the largest weekly growth for the whole of 2016 and the best weekly total like-for-like growth recorded since February 2014.

Online sales also rocketed in the week before Christmas, increasing 51.1% for the week – a figure not beaten since the first week of 2015. The result helped to lift online sales growth for December to +19.0%, a notable improvement on the +7.5% seen in December last year.

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “With such a weak base for December 2015, any further decline can only be seen as a poor result for retailers.

“Coming at a critical juncture, this fourth negative December in succession highlights the magnitude of the challenge that lies ahead for 2017, when consumers will more keenly feel the bite of inflation and a falling pound.”


Notes to editors

Accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP provides integrated advice and solutions to help businesses navigate a changing world.

Our clients are Britain’s economic engine – ambitious, entrepreneurially-spirited and high growth businesses that fuel the economy. 

We share our clients’ ambitions and their entrepreneurial mind-set. We have the right combination of global reach, integrity and expertise to help them succeed. 


BDO LLP operates in 18 offices across the UK, employing 3,500 people offering tax, audit and assurance, and a range of advisory services. BDO LLP has revenues of £405m and is the UK member firm of the BDO International network.

BDO International

The BDO International network provides business advisory services in 154 countries, with 64,500 people working out of 1,400 offices worldwide. It has revenues of $7.3bn. 


Alex Black or Rebecca Williams
Launch PR

Tel:      +44(0)20 7758 3900
Email: [email protected]