UK consumers are poised to shake off fears of a renewed downturn and spend more than expected this Christmas, according to research analyst Mintel.

But the good news may not last long, with “the real possibility” of a retail recession in 2012.

The organisation is predicting retail sales growth of 4-5% in December, with up to 1% of that figure made up of volume growth. And Mintel says 29% of consumers are planning to buy new clothes, up from 21% last month.

The company bases its bullish outlook on its Tracker research suggesting consumers plan to spend more, on the continued strength of retail sales this year, and on undemanding comparisons with last year’s spell of bad weather in December.

“Retail sales have remained strong because people have been most reluctant to cut back on food and clothing,” said Richard Perks, director of retail at Mintel.

“So they have been prepared to absorb the high rates of inflation in those two sectors in order to maintain their lifestyles and they have cut back even harder elsewhere.”

Perks added that retailers who had taken a cautious view on Christmas trading could find themselves running short of stock.

“That may not be ideal, but it means they should achieve a relatively high rate of full-price sales,” he said. “Only the major under-performers are likely to be ‘on sale’ before Christmas.”

However, Mintel warned that more bad weather in December this year could undermine trading, wiping 1-1.5% off sales growth.

And Perks said rising unemployment and squeezed incomes made it “hard to be optimistic” about the prospects for 2012.

“Volume sales will be weak and there is a real possibility of a retail recession – something we have, so far, not experienced since the downturn started in spring 2008.”