IT pros working through Umbrella Companies in the retail sector may have played a significant part in preventing sales from plunging during December, new figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) suggest.

Were it not for a strong hike in online non-food sales of 17.8%, the overall sales figure for December 2012 would have fallen appreciably below that for the same time in 2011. As it stands, however, a strong ecommerce performance has ensured that total sales last December grew by 1.5% on the previous year’s total and like-for-like sales edged ahead by 0.3%.

Umbrella Company techies will have played a key role in helping retailers to develop their ecommerce operations. Retail has been suffering badly since the beginning of 2011, said the BRC’s director general, Helen Dickinson, which has led many retailers to invest heavily in making their websites easy to access across a range of devices, from desktops to mobile gadgets.

Ms Dickinson added: “For the more established retailers, it seems that much of the growth is now coming from online orders, while shop sales are stagnant at best.”

2012 has been a brutal year for the High Street, with several big household names sinking without trace. These included Comet, Clinton Cards, Game, Aquascutum and Peacocks.

Commenting on the prospects for the coming year, KPMG’s head of retail, David McCorquodale, said: “January will be a tough month for retailers as consumers face up to their credit card bills after Christmas, and it’s likely 2013 will bring more of the same challenges. There will be no boom and it is likely more than a few will go bust.”

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