UK retailers set for best Christmas sales growth since 2007 - report

LONDON Mon Oct 14, 2013 5:40pm BST

Christmas cards, wrapping and bags are seen for sale in Westgate shopping centre in east London August 17, 2013, 129 days before Christmas Day. REUTERS/Russell Boyce

Christmas cards, wrapping and bags are seen for sale in Westgate shopping centre in east London August 17, 2013, 129 days before Christmas Day.

Credit: Reuters/Russell Boyce

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LONDON (Reuters) - British retailers are set to enjoy their best growth in Christmas sales since the financial crisis, according to a report published on Monday which forecast consumers would spend at least 2 billion pounds more than in 2012.

Market research specialist Verdict forecast spending in the fourth quarter would rise 2.2 percent from the same period in 2012 to 88.4 billion pounds - the best since 2007 when fourth-quarter spending grew 3.1 percent to 82.4 billion pounds.

Improving consumer confidence and job creation, along with a pick-up in the housing market, were some of the reasons cited by Verdict, which also pointed out that a baby boom during the recession meant consumers now have more children to buy Christmas presents for.

Government data indicates the outlook is improving for UK consumer spending, which generates about two-thirds of gross domestic product, but retailers are still wary as inflation continues to outpace wage rises.

Verdict also forecast a surge in online spending this year because Christmas Day falls on a Wednesday and consumers can thus use retailers' online "click & collect" services to pick up goods ordered online as late as Monday December 23.

The market research firm predicted online sales would jump 12 percent to 11.6 billion pounds. Overall it forecast 52 billion pounds would be spent on non-food items and 36.4 billion pounds spent on food.

Verdict said consumer confidence was also being lifted by events such as the awarding of compensation payments for mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI) and windfalls from the flotation of the Royal Mail, which "have a further halo effect of boosting the view that at last things are getting better."

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Sophie Walker)

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