Christmas shoppingAndrew Milligan/PA Wire

High-street spending in the run-up to Christmas has been "acceptable but not exceptional", the retail industry trade association has said.

Spending over the final weekend before Christmas hit the predicted £5 billion, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), but swathes of retailers still risk going under after the festive period.




As more shoppers flock to the web rather than the shops to buy presents, high-street retailers face the threat of closure, business recovery group Begbies Traynor warned.

Almost 140 firms were in a critical condition in the fourth quarter, meaning they are on the brink of collapse, while more than 13,700 were in "significant" distress - up 35% during the three months to December 17, the Begbies Traynor report said.

And online spending was set to increase again, with many internet stores, such as Amazon, launching sales on Christmas Eve or on Christmas morning.

But the BRC's head of media and campaigns Richard Dodd said poor accessibility on high streets, a lack of parking and weak consumer demand were to blame rather than an increase in online shopping. But he acknowledged that some high-street retailers would "undoubtedly" fail after Christmas.

He went on: "There are a lot of myths around online retail. Ten per cent of overall retailing over the year comes from online shopping and actually it presents lots of opportunities for the retail sector. The lines are becoming increasingly blurred with things like click and collect."

But it was "troubling" that big high-street retailers such as Comet and JJB Sports had failed in the run-up to Christmas, Mr Dodd said, adding: "Often they (retailers) usually hang on until Christmas and then see where they are. There will be some that have done extremely well. Equally, there will be others for whom it has not stacked up and undoubtedly there will be some failures."

Last-minute bargain hunters were cashing in on internet sales as online retailers slashed their prices earlier than the traditional Boxing Day sales. The Marks & Spencer online sale began at noon on Monday, with John Lewis following suit at 5pm and Currys/PC World at 7pm, according to the Daily Mail. Online giant Amazon will start its sale on Christmas morning, a day earlier than usual.

While the January sales started early online, early figures suggested British retailers would be shunning the shops from Boxing Day and beyond. Almost half (47%) were not planning on buying anything in the post-Christmas sales, according to research by comparison website Pricerunner.

© 2012 Press Association