High street retailers had a challenging Christmas, squeezed by rapid growth in online sales and falling prices in shops, the British Retail Consortium said on Tuesday, echoing the trading statements beginning to emerge from retail groups. In total, the BRC estimated the value of retail sales grew 1 per cent in December compared with a year earlier, but as part of that figure, online sales jumped 15.1%. Online sales accounted for 19.7% of the value of transactions outside the food sector. (The Financial Times £)

The Guardian writes that it was a Christmas to forget for most retailers after heavy discounting failed to attract consumers already out of breath from chasing bargains on Black Friday. The BRC figures reveal that the transformation of Britain’s festive period from a two-week bonanza to a six-week slog, starting in November, meant that high street sales failed to soar as expected in December 2015. (The Guardian)

Meanwhile, UK consumer spending last year rose to its second-highest level since 2008, new data revealed today, driven by strong online sales, although high street growth remained sluggish. Visa Europe’s latest UK Consumer Spending Index showed consumer spending increased by 2.3% year-on-year in December. E-commerce performed strongest throughout the year, with online spending up 7.4 per cent in December 2015 compared to the same time a year earlier. (The Daily Mail)

The Visa Europe data suggest that heavily trailed promotional events such as Black Friday have changed the way consumers do their shopping, writes The Telegraph, with a number of high street retailers have recently warned that difficult trading conditions on the high street are weighing on sales. (The Telegraph)

The Daily Mail analyses “how we fell in love with convenience stores” this morning. “The currency in the world of retail at the moment is convenience and speed, whether its deliveries to homes or the proximity of the closest store,” The Mail writes. “These are behind two recent bold moves by Sainsbury’s.” (The Daily Mail)

The Guardian looks at the retail winners and losers over the Christmas period – including Waitrose, Poundland and Home Retail Group. Those most reliant on clothing and general merchandise are amongst the worst performers so far. (The Guardian).

The FT has a piece on the possible presence of lead and arsenic hidden in rice and green tea from China. (The Financial Times £)

Lancashire Farm Dairies, which makes natural yoghurt, says the value of its own-brand products has surged 14% in the past year to £11m, as more people move away from flavoured treats. (The Daily Telegraph)

The FT also takes a look at sector “bellwethers”, in specific reference to the intense scrutiny placed on Marks & Spencer and its departing boss Marc Bolland. “Being a bellwether is no fun. Shepherds used to castrate a ram — or wether — put a bell round its neck and set it to lead their sheep. For chief executives who head a company whose performance is supposed to be a guide to the state of the market, it is more like wearing a millstone than a bell.” (The Financial Times £)