THE UK's high street stores enjoyed a strong Christmas, with figures revealing sales increased at their fastest rate for nine years.

The 5.3 per cent rise in year-on-year sales volumes in December was the best since October 2004.

A report from the Office for National Statistics said consumers spent £44.1bn, or £8.8bn a week, in December, which was about £300m a week more than a year earlier.

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Internet sales also increased by 11.8 per cent by value compared with the same month last year, with average weekly online spending standing at £675.4m.

Smaller stores, employing fewer than 100 people, also fared better, with the amount spent in them increasing by 8.1 per cent.

Department stores saw sales volumes grow by 11.7 per cent, marking the highest year-on-year growth since January 2000.

The figures come as high street traders Argos, Halfords, Primark and Next reveal buoyant trading results, though Marks and Spencer and Debenhams' performances were less positive.