Commenting on the December retail sales figures, published today by the ONS, David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:  “The weaker than expected increase in retail sales points to a more challenging Christmas season than initially indicated by a number of larger retail chains. Although the figures are still consistent with a return to positive economic growth, it is clear that any recovery remains fragile and patchy.  

“These figures suggest that smaller, independent retailers – those outside the major chains – are facing the biggest hurdles. 

“While the Monetary Policy Committee need not increase its quantitative easing stimulus, it is too early to contemplate a reduction in the programme or an increase in interest rates. The main policy priority remains preventing a double-dip recession.”