Like-for-like retail sales climbed 2.5% last month compared with a year ago, according to data from the British Retail Consortium.

Trade gathered strength in the final week before Christmas, helped by colder weather, it found.

“These results are almost exactly in line with our expectations. While some retailers have performed very strongly, the average experience was broadly as we expected - not a bonanza, but a long way from the disaster predicted by at least one City luminary,” said Kevin Hawkins, director-general of the BRC.