The sale season is vital for many retailers
The six-day trading week in the final run up to Christmas saved the High Street from the "retail meltdown" many had predicted, and post-Christmas sales got off to a great start, with a record number of Boxing Day shoppers.
But then, suddenly, things slowed.
Shopper numbers dropped 8% in the week to 1 January, and this drop alone was enough to pull shopper numbers for the month as a whole below the previous year's figure.
And yet, shopper numbers fell just 0.1% last month, thus in effect marking quite a turnaround after the consumer spending slowdown that hit so many retailers during the first 11 months of 2005.
End-of-year sales are crucial for many retailers, eager to offload excess stock to be ready for the new season.
As such, the first few weeks of January - when a host of retailers give trading updates - are seen as a barometer to how well the retail industry is doing, and what sort of year it has ahead.
BBC News picks through the figures with a guide to the winners and losers of Christmas 2005.
To see how the retailers fared click on the link:
- Clothing and footwear
- Department stores
- Entertainment and electricals
- Health and Beauty
- Food and drink
Clothing and Footwear
Discount retailer Matalan said it had stemmed its fall in sales over the Christmas trading period despite tough competition on the High Street.
Sales were down 5.5% in the 10 weeks to 7 January not counting new store openings - although this improved on a 10.6% fall for the previous nine weeks.
Matalan said it had cut the number of sale items in a bid to boost profitability.
Fashion house Burberry shrugged off the hard times on the High Street with an 11% rise in like-for-like retail sales, which strip out the effect of new store openings.
But a 21% slide in the wholesale business meant underlying overall sales were up just 1%.
Next plans to grow sales by opening new stores
A 3.2% fall in like-for-like sales for the five months to the end of December was balanced by a rise in key areas.
Sales from the Next Directory website and mail-order service, as well as from new stores, rose by nearly 10% compared with the same period in 2004.
The figures were better than expected. Back in September, Next said like-for-like sales were down by 6%. But looking ahead it did warn that trading would remain tough during the first half of 2006.
The budget fashion retailer said sales in its stores more than a year old rose just 0.1% in the 39 weeks to Christmas Eve.
It said Christmas trading had followed a similar pattern.
Like Next, New Look had to rely on new store openings and its internet operations to lift overall profits 14%.
The sportswear chain reported a 2% rise in like-for-like sales for Christmas and New Year sales.
Like many retailers, it had to cut prices to boost festive trade, but said the rise in sales "more than compensated".
Nevertheless, JJB also admitted that lower profit margins would hit its annual profits.
The retailer beat market expectations by unveiling a 3.7% rise in like-for-like sales during the 14 weeks to 7 January.
JD Sports thanked the cold snap for a boost in sales - driven by demand for winter clothing - adding that like-for-like sales accelerated to 4.7% of the final eight weeks of the period.
Blacks said the Christmas cold snap heated up its sales
Sales improved at the outdoor clothing seller helping to offset a 4.8% drop like-for-like in October
The group, which owns the Millets, Blacks and O'Neill chains, said
like-for-like sales were 1.5% higher in the eight weeks to 14 January,
offsetting the 4.8% drop reported for the first half.
However, over the longer 20 week period to 14 January like-for-like sales -which exclude new store openings sales - were 2.6% lower than last year.
Same store sales at the group's main clothing chain increased 2.7% in the 15 weeks to 14 January, while Austin Reed added it had also improved margins as it had opted to sell clothes at full price in the face of rising demand.
Festive demand also helped slow a decline in sales at the group's CC division, formerly known as Country Casuals, to 10.5% during the period compared to a 15% fall in the seven weeks to 1 October.
Like-for-like sales jumped 5% in the six weeks to 7 January, but the group - which also owns Accessorize - added this was due to it entering the winter sales with a glut of stock.
Three months after reporting that High Street trading was at its worst for 15 years, the retailer trumpeted a 7% rise in like-for-like sales, excluding Christmas Eve.
The retailer continued to outperform many of its competitors in post Christmas sales, which rose 4% in the first week of its end-of-year sale.
Retailers are worried about another tough year of trading in 2006
Marks and Spencer
The clothing and food retailer said it enjoyed a "particularly strong" Christmas.
Like-for-like sales rise 2.9% in the 13 weeks to the end of December. Clothes sales grew 1.9%, though even stronger growth was seen in food sales, which rose almost 8%.
Crucially, M&S managed to avoid offering discounts to lure shoppers.
Demand for toys, computer games and MP3 players helped the group slow a sales decline over the key festive period, while Woolworths maximised its profits by holding off on price cuts.
Same store sales fell 0.8% in the six weeks to 14 January, an improvement on the 3.9% fall in sales for the 50 weeks to that date.
Entertainment and Electricals
The camera and photo kit retailer thanked strong digital camera sales for a 9.4% rise in like-for-like sales in the five weeks to 1 January.
Its gross margin on the products it sold also rose, although not as much as had been expected.
A "Digital Christmas" helped drive sales higher across the group which includes the Dixons, Currys and PC World stores.
Digital gadgets appeared to be on everyone's wish list this Christmas
DSG said consumer appetite for gadgets such as iPods, games consoles, laptops and satellite navigation equipment pushed like-for-like sales 2% higher in the eight weeks to 7 January.
However, there was one sour note as the group revealed sales at its Link mobile phone stores tumbled 28% during the same period.
It was a similar story for Comet's owner with demand for hi-tech gadgets helping to put the brakes on a slide in sales.
Same store sales at Comet were 2% lower in the three months to 8 January - an improvement on the 3.1% decline posted during the previous quarter.
It was a blue Christmas for HMV Group, which makes most of its profits during the festive trading period.
Like-for-like sales during the period fell 2.7% - a significant fall from the 6.4% rise seen a year ago - while HMV added its decision to slash prices had squeezed profit margins.
The group's core HMV stores suffered most, with sales slumping 5.5% while sales at its Waterstone's bookshops down 2.4%.
Health and Beauty
Shares in Body Shop tumbled after the retailer warned that lower-than-expected Christmas sales in the UK would hit profits.
Same-store sales in the UK and Ireland rose just 1% during the period, down from a 5% rise the year before.
Figures were better-than-expected, with like-for-like sales falling just 0.7% in the three months to 31 December, rather than the predicted 1.4% drop.
But, total sales - which include new stores - rose 1%, buoyed by a strong performance in the group's key health and beauty offerings which led to a 7% rise in beauty sales.
Same-store sales excluding fuel rose 2.8% over the key Christmas period, just ahead of market expectations.
Covering the six weeks to 8 January, Morrisons said sales at its 220 former Safeway stores - again not including fuel - were up 9%.
The UK's third largest superstore came a close second in the seasonal sales battle, despite reporting that a record 19 million people had passed through its checkouts in the week before Christmas.
Tesco managed to bag the biggest Christmas sales
Same store sales, excluding fuel, jumped 5.2% in the 12 weeks to 31 December.
Including fuel, like-for-like sales - which strip out the effect of new store openings - rose 4.8%.
Supermarket giant Tesco came out on top in the store wars this Christmas with a 5.7% surge in same store sales for the seven weeks to 7 January.
Total group sales, including new stores, grew 11.5% - buoyed strong international sales.
Demand for posh nosh gave it a lift with its Tesco Finest range faring particularly well.
Online sales also reached another milestone with Tesco.com racking up a record one million orders in the four weeks before Christmas.
Food and drink
Fewer customers and weak consumer confidence were blamed for a slide in sales at the chocolatier chain.
Like-for-like sales - which exclude the impact of store openings and closures - at Thorntons' own stores were fell 4.8% in the 28 weeks to 7 January, while total sales sank 6.2%.