UK food retailers saw slow-moving sales during the festive period, with a marginal 0.3% increase in like-for-likes (LFLs), the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has revealed.

The latest results for the month, as revealed in the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor published today, highlighted a slight rise in LFLs, compared to a 2.2% lift on the preceding year. Total sales grew 1.5% last month, in comparison to 4.1% in December 2011.

The BRC said the discrepancy between the rate of growth for food and non-food has been narrowing in recent months to the detriment of food.

Helen Dickinson, new director general at the BRC, said: “Against the relentlessly tough economic backdrop and low expectations, these results are not a cause for celebration, but not a disaster either. Total growth for December hasn’t beaten inflation and is only on a par with December 2010, when severe weather put sales volumes on ice for much of the month.

“Online was the stand-out performer, showing its highest rate of growth this year. Shoppers are increasingly taking advantage of the convenience that online shopping offers at every stage of the customer journey, from comparing prices to reserving and collecting in-store.”

Online sales experienced a 17.8% rise the BRC revealed, which is the fastest growth since December 2011 when they had risen by 18.5%.

David McCorquodale, head of retail, KPMG, said: “A flat end to a flat year is perhaps the best way to describe the Christmas trading for 2012. Retailers this year were perhaps better prepared for a sluggish quarter and held less stock throughout. The stand-off between retailers and consumers looking for bargains and discounts continued throughout December and, while some retailers will report record Christmas sales, most will breathe a sigh of relief because it could have been much worse.”

He added that January will be a tough month for retailers as consumers face up to their credit card bills after Christmas, and consumer confidence will remain low, making life difficult for the average UK retailer.

Dickinson added: “This rather underwhelming result brings a year of minimal sales growth to a close. Retailers will be hoping that a continuing boost from post-Christmas sales events strengthens January’s figures but, unfortunately, there are few signs that their sense of ‘running fast to stand still’ is likely to ease off any time soon.”