High street bellwether John Lewis saw sales of £104m last week, up by 1.2 per cent year on year and by 3.7 per cent compared with the previous week, despite "atrocious weather conditions".
The gains were a fraction of the growth in the previous week, when sales shot up by 13.5 per cent week-on-week and by 8.7 per cent compared with 2009. But trade recovered sharply as the ice started to thaw on Saturday, and the department store racked up £21m in sales in one of its best-ever days.
Retailers need a spell of benign weather to make up for lost ground, Howard Archer, the chief economist at IHS Global Insight, said. "The crucial Christmas shopping period is now in full swing and an extended period of people not being able to get to the shops threatens to be highly damaging for them," he said.