Retail sales slumped by 1.5% compared with the month before, according to the Office for National Statistics - a much sharper decline than experts predicted. Discount drives like Black Friday, in November, are encouraging shoppers to spend their money earlier in the year
A dire Christmas left Britain's high streets having their worst December sales performance since 2010, figures out today reveal.
Retail sales slumped by 1.5 per cent compared with the month before, according to the Office for National Statistics - a much sharper decline than experts predicted.
While sales for the whole of 2017 was its weakest since 2013, growing by just 1.3 per cent, the numbers show.
The gloomy news comes after some of the UK's biggest high street names reported dismal Christmas spending figures.
Debenhams an Mothercare both issued a profits warnings after bleak Christmas sales, while House of Fraser asked its landlords for a rent cut after poor sales.
Discount drives like Black Friday, which falls in November, are encouraging shoppers to spend their money earlier in the year.
While shoppers are splurging more of their cash online than on the high street - with nearly £1 in every £5 now spent on the internet.
ONS senior statistician Rhian Murphy said: 'Consumers continue to move Christmas purchases earlier with higher spending in November and lower spending in December than seen in previous years.
'However, the longer-term picture is one of slowing growth, with increased prices squeezing people's spending.'
The figures show that internet sales continued to grow - accounting for 18 per cent of all retail in December 2017, up from 17.1 per cent compared with December the year before.
Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, said the squeeze on spending should ease this year as wages are expected to rise.
He said: 'The squeeze on consumers remains appreciable at the start of 2018, but it should progressively ease as the year progresses due to inflation falling back significantly and pay gradually picking up.
'However, employment growth is likely to be modest at best in 2018, while consumer confidence may well remain fragile amid significant economic, political and Brexit uncertainties.
'Meanwhile, lenders are becoming less prepared to make unsecured credit available to consumers and they are also tightening their lending standards.'