Christmas in Oxford Street
Oxford Street in December Reuters

December saw the worst sales performance since the financial crash in 2008, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

December's like-for-like sales dropped by 0.4% as retailers experienced a post-Black Friday lull, compared with a 0.9% lift for November.

The BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor reported a 1% rise in total sales. This was also the weakest December performance since 2008, when sales tumbled 3.3% amid the collapse of the banking sector.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said the US-inspired Black Friday of flash sales was followed by a "challenging lull in spending" as consumers waited for future bargains.

"This difficult stop/start sales environment has been undoubtedly challenging, but most retailers have managed to achieve a flat, but respectable, sales performance this Christmas. Time will tell on margins," he said.

Food sales were "modest" as they fell 0.3% in the three months to December. This was improvement from a 1.7% low in September.

"The grocers had rather a commendable Christmas, given the persistent price deflation that has dogged the sector throughout the year," McCorquodale said.

He said the launch of Boxing Day sales, and new season full-price stock, helped rescue the situation, particularly for fashion retailers, which had their best sales performance since August.