Economists and the British Retail Consortium yesterday criticised the Government's latest retail sales data for being 'overly rosy' and not matching the harsh reality that shops and consumers are facing.

Total retail sales volumes rose by 0.3% in November on the previous month, the Office of National Statistics said, but this was far better than the 0.7% fall in sales that economists had forecast.

Most high street chains launched record levels of pre-Christmas discounting last month to lure cash-strapped shoppers into their stores.

Daily Telegraph, The Independent