UK food stores saw their seasonally adjusted volume of sales for October to December rise 1.8% compared to the previous three months, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The ONS said retail volumes rose by 1.1% between November and December and by 6.4% in the year to December - the highest for eight months - driven by clothing sales.

The overall figures are far above even the most optimistic expectations in the City and sharply at odds with surveys from the British Retail Consortium and the Confederation of British Industry.

However, the ONS includes the week until January 4 in the December figures - a slightly longer period than the other surveys - so shoppers hunting sales bargains may have pushed up the figures.