Christmas trading was "not exceptional" for UK retailers, according to new British Retail Consortium (BRC) director general Helen Dickinson.

"Overall, Christmas hasn't been a boom time for UK retailers but it hasn't been complete doom and gloom either," said Dickinson.

"There are big variations in individual retail performances but, when the final sums are done, total spending is likely to be up modestly on last year though only broadly in line with shop price inflation."

Consumers bought only similar amounts to last year, said Dickinson. "Sales were hard-fought and often driven by discounts so cutting into margins, though retailers worked hard to ensure they had the right products available, whether in store or online, and at the right prices.

"Sales have not collapsed but the pressure is coming from adapting to conditions that consistently deliver minimal year-on-year sales growth. There is only so much cost cutting and new efficiency retailers can achieve."

The recently appointed BRC director general warned that the ongoing endurance test for retailers of trading in a largely no-growth environment is likely to continue well into 2013.

"As we look to the New Year, utility prices are likely to edge up inflation and people are keen to continue paying down their debt, which means the amount of money they have in their pockets will remain under pressure. So, 2013 will be characterised by more of the same and there's every sign that the ongoing endurance test for retailers of trading in a largely no-growth environment is likely to continue well into next year."