The robustness of British sofas was severely tested over the Christmas period as everyone shunned the high street and opted to buy their pressies from the comfort of their living rooms while they got squiffy on sherry.

Online sales rose over 50% on 2015, while Internet spending climbed by 19% in December. The figures translate to a fourth Christmas of falling sales for real shops.

Sales in clothing stores open for more than a year fell by over 1%, as Jack Frost failed to make an appearance, prompting everyone to immediately not buy woollies and coats. This was partially offset by a 2.6% rise in homeware sales and a 2.4% spike in sales of bicycles, wrapping paper and cards. Odd, that.

Online retailers threw the biggest party, with a massive hike in the final week before Christmas of 51% in year-on-year sales.

Business advice firm BDO surveyed more than 70 retailers, including several mid-sized chains. The company said that the lift in online trade was down to shoppers being confident that last-minute purchases would arrive on time. International shoppers also took advantage of a pound weaker than the grip of a newborn shrew.

Sophie Michael, head of retail at BDO, said, “We have seen a shift towards online for a number of years but it was more pronounced in December partly because the weak pound drew spend from overseas. It’s also the convenience and comfort of being able to shop from your own home.”

Analyst at Haitong Research, Tony Shiret, said Black Friday also affected sales in December and early January: “Black Friday is part of a structural change which is displacing profitable pre-Christmas sales with unprofitable sales in November.”

BDO’s report added that high-street shoppers left buying late: “The slump in sales could have been considerably worse were it not for a stellar performance in the week leading up to Christmas Day.” Presumably from young men on their way home from the Dog and Duck.

The news follows Marks and Spencer announcing plans to close 30 UK stores, while Currys/PC World and the Arcadia Group have all cut down their real-world presence in recent years.

But hey, if we keep on wearing out our sofas as we kick back and shop from home, at least DFS will have reason to celebrate.

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Author Chris Painter

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