UK retail sales grew at their fastest year-on-year pace for more than a quarter-century in the two weeks to December 11, with the Black Friday shopping extravaganza adopted from the US playing a major part, a survey has revealed.

The Confederation of British Industry's latest distributive trades survey, published yesterday, shows that 71 per cent of retailers reported that sales volumes in the two-week period were up on the same time last year. Only nine per cent of retailers said sales volumes were down.

The rounded balance of 61 per cent of retailers reporting a rise signalled the fastest year-on-year pace of sales growth since January 1988.

In the CBI's previous monthly survey, a balance of 27 per cent of retailers had reported a year-on-year rise in sales volumes.

Barry Williams, chairman of the CBI distributive trades survey panel and chief merchandising officer for food at supermarket group Asda, said: "The strongest sales growth for a quarter of a century is a big boost for retailers as they head towards the climax of the crucial pre-Christmas trading period.

"Black Friday price-cuts, embraced more widely by more UK retailers than ever, and discounting played an important part in helping sales, encouraging more customers into stores and online to buy more widely."

However, he added: "Shoppers may have caught the Christmas bug early and brought some of their spending forward. This has been a tough year for many retailers and parts of the sector are still struggling. Increasing disposable income...and falling fuel prices are giving retailers reasons for optimism but we'll need to see in the New Year whether the upbeat mood takes hold."

Looking ahead to January, a balance of 35 per cent of retailers predicted year-on-year growth in sales volumes.

Maeve Johnston, UK economist at consultancy Capital Economics, said: "We expect December's retail sales volumes to have been dented by

consumers bringing forward Christmas purchases into November to take advantage of heavy discounting."

However, she added: "While the strength of December's CBI distributive trades survey is likely to be exaggerated by the inclusion of Black Friday sales, it still provides another encouraging sign on the underlying strength of the consumer recovery."