Last year ended on a flat note for UK retailers with sales up only 0.3% on a like-for-like basis in December.


December's growth was the weakest since March 2006 when sales were hit by Easter falling in April that year. It was the worse December figure since 2004.


The three-month trend rate of growth fell to 0.8% from 1.8% in November for like-for-like sales, and to 2.8% from 3.8% for total sales, reflecting the continuing growth of retail space.


Kevin Hawkins, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: "This result is somewhat worse than we expected and points to a very challenging first half for 2008."

Helen Dickinson, Head of Retail at KPMG said: "Sales did grow in December but, as the worst performance since March 2006, growth can only be described as weak. In the lead-up to Christmas there were huge daily swings as shoppers replaced even spending patterns with a smaller number of bargain-hunting big swoops."


Last week, figures suggested UK food retailers are outperforming the generally gloomy UK retail market, a notion backed by Dickinson.


"Sector performance also varied. Clothing and footwear sales actually fell in December for a third consecutive month, while food and drink, and toiletries and cosmetics grew," she said.