Online drives December sales

Modest sales growth in December was driven by online as retailers invested in multichannel services such as click and collect, according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium.

Shoppers on Oxford Street in December.
London’s Oxford Street VIP shopping day in December attracted shoppers.

Same store sales in December were up just 0.3 per cent compared to a year ago and total sales, which include new stores, increased 1.5 per cent. If online sales are stripped out of the growth figures, however, growth is just below 0, according to Helen Dickinson, the newly appointed director general of the BRC.

Online sales increased 17.8 per cent year on year in December, the fastest growth since December 2011, which the BRC says demonstrates the growing importance of online in December sales. Growth of online sales slowed during 2012, but picked up again in the final month of the year as shoppers turned to the convenience of online shopping in the busy Christmas period.

The peak week for online sales remained the first week in December, but continued longer than in previous years as consumers’ confidence in delivery and online fulfilment improved thanks to investment in multichannel, says the retail body.

The figures were “not a cause for celebration, but not a disaster either,” according to Dickinson.

Speaking to Marketing Week at the presentation of the results, Dickinson says retailers must maintain a clear and consistent marketing message to succeed in 2013.

She says: “It’s less about what you communicate than it is about the clarity of the message. One thing is about being really clear about what it is you stand for and are offering and another is about how to ensure consistency across different channels. The complexity of how you go about communicating with people that are interacting with you in different ways is challenging and we will continue to see that evolve.”

Early sales activity launched by many retailers gave a much-needed boost towards the end of the month and without that, the sector would not have seen the modest growth recorded in December, says Dickinson.

In line with the BRC’s analysis of December trading, Debenhams has today (7 January) reported a 5 per cent rise in sales over Christmas, which it says was boosted by heavy discounting over the festive period.

Dickinson says: “The level of growth is effectively flat. Sales growth is not going anywhere and there’s no indication we’ll see any underlying change in 2013. It’s a sheer endurance test of a marginal growth environment making it very difficult for retailers. It feels like they’re running fast just to stand still.”

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here