UK retail sales are forecast to increase 3.5% this Christmas, new research suggests, with clothing stores likely to receive a boost if the cold weather continues.

Total retail sales value is set to reach GBP40.3bn (US$65.3m) this year, compared to the same period last year, according to business advisory firm Deloitte. 

Homeware and department stores are also set to contribute to this growth.

"The forecast will provide some Christmas cheer for retailers," said Ian Geddes, UK head of retail at Deloitte. "Shoppers are expected to loosen purse strings off the back of rising consumer confidence and improving economic conditions.

"Flexible delivery could be this year's battlefield."

Online sales, meanwhile, are forecast to hit GBP5bn this Christmas, up 19% year-on-year, with around 20,000 UK click-and-collect points expecting a busy month.

Ben Perkins, head of consumer business research at Deloitte, added: "Innovators in the market continue to raise the bar, developing new fulfilment options to cater for consumers' needs."

Some retailers, he said, are able to deliver within 90 minutes, while others are offering Sunday deliveries, drive-through pick-up points and even collection from tube stations within four hours of ordering.
 
"However they must balance this against the cost of delivery and recognise the infrastructure and systems that need to be in place to ensure a reliable and efficient service. 

"Retailers are under pressure to secure sales and customer loyalty but ultimately, they need to turn a profit in the process," Perkins added.