It wasn’t such a merry Christmas in the High Street as department stores and supermarkets reported disappointing sales.
The news kept the FTSE unchanged as retailers rolled out their results for the festive period.
The day started optimistically as speculation out of China suggested Beijing and Washington were reaching an agreement over trade tariffs.
The Chinese released a statement describing the three days of talks this week as ‘extensive and deeply detailed’ and as ‘laying the foundations for our dispute to be resolved’.
Back in the UK, High Street sales were flat in December, marking the worst performance since 2008.
Like-for-like sales were down 0.7% compared with 12 months earlier.
Shining light at Tesco
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Squeezed consumers chose not to splash out this Christmas with retail sales growth stalling for the first time in 28 months. The worst December sales performance in 10 years means a challenging start to 2019 for retailers, with business rates set to rise once again this year, and the threat of a no-deal Brexit looming ever larger.”
The only shining light was supermarket Tesco, which did better than any rivals with sales that exceeded the expectations of analysts – growing 0.5% in the third quarter to November 24 and 1.5% in the six weeks to January 5.
Sales at Marks and Spencer dipped 3.9% in the third quarter, while troubled department store Debenhams posted a 3.4% drop over the sex week festive period.
Motoring and cycling specialist Halfords saw sales plunge 22% and issued a warning that profits would fall to between £58 million and £62 million. The Card Factory saw a 0.5% sales decline and warned that the coming year would be difficult.