British retail sales came in way above expectations in December, official data showed on Friday, with strong growth at smaller stores resulting in the largest annual rise since 2004.
Retail sales volumes rose by 2.6 percent on the month, according to figures released by the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) — the largest increase since February 2010. Economists had expected a 0.4 percent monthly rise, following an increase of 0.3 percent in November.
On the year, meanwhile, retail sales expanded by 5.3 percent — significantly higher than the 2.6 percent hike forecast by economists.
Small retailers fared much better than larger stores, with sales 8.1 percent higher at small shops in December compared with the same month in 2012. By contrast, sales rose by 2.6 percent at large retailers.
Howard Archer, chief U.K. and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said the data indicated that consumers had postponed their spending to cash in on last-minute deals.
“The surge in retail sales in December following a muted overall performance in November and October indicates that consumers left much of their Christmas spending late in the hope of getting better late deals from retailers,” he said in a note.
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