While many UK traders found the crucial Christmas trading period difficult, new research suggests that business was more buoyant on these shores than in many countries in Europe.
During December 2011 sales volumes grew 2.6 per cent in Britain, according to figures produced by international real estate firm CBRE, while across the whole of Europe trading volumes grew just 0.1 per cent year-on-year.
Improved weather in comparison to the previous year and widespread heavy discounting helped many domestic based shops shift units in the run up to the holiday season, and the UK also saw the fastest growth in online sales across the continent.
Countries inside the Eurozone collectively had the worst sales growth during the month, down 1.6 per cent on 2010, but squeezed margins and restricted spending seemed to be an issue for retailers right across Europe.
Neville Moss, Head of EMEA Retail Research, said: “Shoppers are waiting until later and later to buy their Christmas presents in the expectation that retailers will discount their prices. This has turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy in some European countries, with retailers forced to lower prices in the week or two before Christmas.
“Strong sales were reported by many retailers during this period, but it was perhaps too little too late, and it remains to be seen what impact this will have on margins throughout Europe for the rest of the year.”
Sales were strongest in Russia which saw a 9.5 per cent rise in trading, while Spain, Portugal and Italy suffered the most from the Eurozone crisis, reporting double-digit sales declines over the period.
Tech-savvy shoppers in northern European countries like the UK helped overall e-tail sales jump eight per cent in December but Moss warns that those countries which are not utilising ecommerce effectively, such as Spain & Portugal which actually saw year-on-year drops in online sales volumes during the month, are causing more pain for themselves.
Moss added: “Our research suggests that shoppers are increasingly taking advantage of the advances in mobile technology, ease of delivery, and of course the opportunity to avoid the festive crowds.
“However, it is no coincidence that those retailers that traded well over the period, such as John Lewis or Next in the UK, have extensive physical store networks as well as sophisticated and long-standing online platforms.”