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Retail sales jump in the run-up to Christmas

Business group CBI has reported brisk trading in the run-up to Christmas, while online retailers are braced for a "mega Monday" of frenzied buying on 6 December.

Retail sales: CBI says pre-Christmas trading is brisk

Retail sales: CBI says pre-Christmas trading is brisk

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The CBI reported that the volume of trade increased in November, with 55% of retailers showing growth, while 13% showed decline.

Ian McCafferty, CBI chief economic adviser, said: "High street sales growth held up well in November, and retailers are hopeful that the run-up to Christmas will be just as strong."

However, he warned that looking into the New Year, retail sales growth might "lose some of its sparkle", as consumers rein in spending after Christmas.

He said: "Confidence remains fragile, VAT is rising in January, and a combination of weak wage growth and high inflation is eating into household incomes."

Elsewhere, figures from retailer John Lewis today (26 November), show brisk Christmas trading, with a 9.8% increase in sales for the week ending 20 November, compared to last year, turning over £186.45m for the week.

Electrical retailer Dixons, fresh from big wins at Campaign's awards last month, agreed that Christmas looked promising, but the longer-term outlook was more uncertain.

Big-ticket items such as iPads and 3D TV were likely to bring some cheer to the group, which is in the middle of a three-year restructure. It reported a 1% increase in revenue in the first six months of the year.

John Browett, chief executive, said: "We remain cautious on the economic outlook across many of our markets, as consumer confidence remains low. However, we have maintained our momentum in transforming the group and are performing ahead of the market.

"We remain excited by the technology pipeline and the superb ranges and deals we will offer customers this Christmas."

Tesco said yesterday that it expected this Christmas to be its "biggest-ever", with 23 December tipped as the biggest day for Christmas shopping. Economists have warned that the UK economy may not return to normal for another two years.

New figures from the Office of National Statistics show the increasing dependence on online retailing. Official figures released today show that non-financial e-commerce rose by a staggering 24.9% in 2009 to £408.3bn, despite the recession.

Online retailers expect 6 December to be the biggest online shopping day, now dubbed "Mega Monday".

David Smith, managing director of the UK's online retail association IMRG, said: "The first Monday of December has traditionally been the busiest online shopping day.

"Indications from our index are that this will be the case again, with all the biggest online retailers agreeing from what they have seen of consumer behaviour.

"We estimate that over half a billion pounds will be spent online on Sunday 5 and Monday 6 December. Total online spend for the Christmas period covering November and December is anticipated to be £12.4bn."

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