Earlier and deeper promotions meant that UK retailers enjoyed a "better than hoped for Christmas" according to figures released today (10 December) the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The BRC-KPMG Sales Monitor for December showed that UK retail sales values were 2.2% higher on a like-for-like basis compared to the previous year, when they fell 0.3% after being hit by snow and bad weather. Over the month, sales were up 4.1%.

The study found that clothing and footwear showed "good gains" on last December's weak sales. Non-food non-store sales, which include internet, mail-order and phone, saw sales growth pick up sharply, with sales up 18.5% on a year ago.

While the numbers reported growth, BRC director general Stephen Robertson was quick to highlight the "major one-off factors" that boosted the numbers and emphasised that "we're not witnessing any fundamental change in customers' circumstances".

"The comparison is with severe snow disruption a year ago. Discounting was deeper and started earlier and the vital Saturday Christmas Eve added another big trading day to the final run-up.

"Post-Christmas offers brought large numbers of shoppers out but that was generally a short-lived hunt for bargains. With discounting driving sales at the expense of margins the key question for retailers is about earnings from those sales," said Robertson.

Commenting on the report, Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said he was "struck" by the multiple mention of "clothing and footwear demand", although industry watchers will need to keep an eye on margins with "promotional activity also highly prevalent".