December retail sales were up 2.2% on a like-for-like basis, according to new figures released by the British Retail Consortium. On a total basis, sales were up 4.1%, against a 1.5% increase in December 2010.

Food sales growth picked up strongly. Figures from Kantar Worldpanel, released today, show total grocery sales up by 4.8% in the 12 weeks ending 25 December. This growth rate remains below the 5.9% food inflation rate, reflecting the intense and ongoing price competition between retailers.

Stephen Robertson, director general, British Retail Consortium, remained downcast. “A solid December result hasn’t rescued a pretty miserable year,” he said. “Whole-year figures show minimal growth in 2011. For many customers, economic reality has bitten again since the New Year and, with consumer confidence returning to levels last seen during the recession, 2012 is expected to be an equally challenging year.”