With retailers taking up to 60% of their annual turnover between November and January, Christmas is the most significant event in the UK's retail calendar.
According to the British Retail Consortium and Nielsen, with four weeks left until the big day, total sales of Christmas related goods are expected to reach almost £12 billion this year, 5% more than in 2006.
However this includes a substantial boost from increases in selling space. On a like-for-like basis (stripping out the effects of new store openings) growth could be less than 3%, with food retailers expecting a slightly better 4% growth. Much of the growth will be achieved by discounting, further squeezing margins.
It is estimated sales of all Christmas-related groceries and other festive paraphernalia will reach £1.07 billion, 4% more than in 2006.
This year, each person will spend an average of £435 on Christmas gifts, 12% more than last year. The most popular gifts will be clothes, books, films and music, with cosmetics, fragrances and gift vouchers also big sellers.
Each household will spend approximately £169 on Christmas food and drink, up 4% since 2006, pushing the average cost of Christmas lunch to almost £16 per head, up from £14 in 2006.
This year, £1.3 million of fresh Christmas trees will be sold, almost 9% less than last year.
Sales of Christmas decorations are estimated to rise by 18% this year, reaching almost £28 million. Christmas cracker sales are set to reach £25 million, a rise of 30%.
An estimated £42 million worth of turkeys will be sold this Christmas, 7% more than last year. The highest sales growth comes from organic turkeys, where sales are set to rise by 46%.
Sales of Brussels sprouts are set to reach £12 million, 7% more than in 2006.
Sales of mince pies are expected to reach £33 million this year, while an estimated £21 million of Christmas puddings will be sold.
Sales of assorted boxed chocolates are expected to reach £222 million this year, while milk and dark organic chocolate sales are set to rise by almost 60% to £3 million.
Sales of food hampers and gift selection sets are expected to reach £10 million this year, a rise of 4% from last year.
Director General, BRC, Kevin Hawkins, said, "The retail sector has experienced challenging trading conditions this year and, with even tougher times ahead, these figures will be encouraging for many retailers.
“However, with the recent slump in consumer confidence and falling spending power, growth this year is likely to be driven by discounting. If retailers do see a boom this Christmas, it will be followed by a slump in spending, as consumers really start to feel the pinch and tighten their belts"
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