Economy: Retailers hope to improve on slow start to Christmas trading

MORE than 11 million shoppers are set to spend more than �1billion, at a rate of �1.5million a minute, today on what it expected to be the busiest shopping day of the festive season.

Shopping comparison website Kelkoo predicts that consumers will spend �128 each on Christmas presents and other goods, taking the average family spend this festive season to almost �700.

But while online sales are expected to soar by over 16% to �13.4bn this Christmas compared with last year, high street sales are set to fall 2% fall, said Kelkoo.

The forecast came as official figures confirmed a slow start to the Christmas trading period, with sales volumes falling last month by 0.4% compared with October despite a range of discounts and promotions. Excluding fuel sales, volumes would have been down 0.7%.

The fall in sales, bringing to an end two months of growth, was slightly bigger than the City had expected and the British Retail Consortium said it was clear shoppers had approached the Christmas period with great caution, reining in their spending in November and leaving it late to start their Christmas shopping.

On a mixed day for retailers, menswear retailer Moss Bros hailed another step in its turnaround with a 10.5% increase in like-for-like sales for the 19 weeks to December 10, while sofa giant DFS said its sales had fallen by 14% in the 13 weeks to October 29.

However, leisure fashion chain Sports Direct posted a 2% increase in underlying profits for the six months to October 23, to �139.2m, with retail revenues up 8.2% at �697.1m.