Clothing had a strong finish to the year as December retail sales in the UK increased 1.8% on last year, but only 0.4% on a like-for-like basis.

Higher confidence levels and a last-minute rush gave a major boost to sales in the final few days before Christmas, according to figures from the BRC/KPMG Retail Sales Monitor. Non-food sales were up 19.2%.

"This is a respectable result overall, in line with our prediction that Christmas trading in 2013 would reflect that while confidence levels were higher than the previous year, this wasn't always matched by more money in pockets," Helen Dickinson, director general at BRC.

"With budgets still under pressure, many shoppers economised where they could to afford a little luxury here and there, and practical gifts such as bedroom furniture, children's clothing and kitchen appliances also proved popular."

Conlumino managing director Neil Saunders said the standout performance in the period came from the internet.

"The online nature of this Christmas was evidenced in the 19.2% increase in online sales compared to last year; this was the biggest increase in online sales recorded since March 2010. Part of the dramatic rise in online was thanks to click and collect which grew strongly from last year and allowed consumers to order from the internet much later than has traditionally been the case.

"In short, December rounded off the retail year in a relatively positive fashion. Sales may not have gone out with a bang, but they didn't go out with a whimper either; they merely confirm that growth is now steady, but sustainable."