Latest figures show an increase in sales volumes for the fifth consecutive month, with shops optimistic that trend will continue.
According to the Confederation of British Industry's (CBI) latest Distributive Trades Survey, 55% of retailers saw the volume of sales rise in the two weeks to November 10. Although 13% of retailers reported a decline in sales, the resulting balance of 43% was in line with expectations and an improvement on the 36% reported in October.
Looking ahead to the Christmas period, 45% of retailers also expect strong sales volume growth to continue in December, while 11% expect the overall business situation to improve over the next three months.
CBI chief economic adviser Ian McCafferty 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, looking into the New Year, retail sales growth may lose some of its sparkle, as consumers rein in spending after Christmas. Confidence remains fragile, VAT is rising in January, and a combination of weak wage growth and high inflation is eating into household incomes."
Meanwhile John Lewis reported another impressive sales performance last week. The department store chain saw an 11.5% increase for the seven days to November 20, compared with the same period last year. Its online channel johnlewis.com also did well, with sale sup 41% and large electrical sales particularly strong.
In store, electricals and home had a strong week, with both new and old favourites driving an increase of 12.6%. Small electrical sales were up 21%, boosted by colourful product and key Christmas lines. Home categories saw an increase of 8.4% for the week, with impressive results in seasonal assortments and gift food. Cookshop also gave a good performance, up 12% on last year, driven by sales in core product, as well as gift ranges.
Sales of furnishing fabrics, floor coverings and beds were also up, as customers continued to get their homes ready for the Christmas period. John Lewis director of operational development said: "The coming week is set to be cold with even a prospect of snow likely for some parts of the country. Roads permitting, it's ideal Christmas shopping weather."