LONDON Dec 19 British retail sales grew less than expected in the first part of December, a survey by the Confederation of British Industry showed on Wednesday, suggesting a weak start to the key Christmas trading period.
The sales balance in the CBI distributive trades survey fell to +19 from a five-month high of +33 hit in November. Analysts had forecast a smaller decline to +25.
The expected sales balance for January eased to +10 from +25 for December.
"This month's survey hasn't quite provided the Christmas cheer that retailers anticipated, with sales growth falling short of expectations," said Anna Leach, CBI head of economic analysis.
"Clearly weak spending power and uncertainty over the economic outlook are likely to remain key risks to the retail sector in 2013."
Grocers and furniture retailers fared well, while retailers of household durable goods were among the worst-performing.
British retail sales volumes grew just 0.2 percent in the three months to October, according to official data released last month. Persistent inflation - which hit a five-month high that month and remained there in November - has depressed consumer demand, as wages have not kept up in a weak economy.
A number of well-known British high-street stores have ceased trading this year, including JJB Sports, Clinton Cards and Game Group. The latest failure, 235-store electrical chain Comet, shut its doors on Tuesday.
The Office for National Statistics will release its November retail sales data at 0930 GMT on Thursday.