Tesco and recession's end
Those who were writing the obituaries of Tesco's boom years, and of the propensity of the great British shopper to spend, may have to re-think.
Britain's biggest retailer enjoyed storming growth during the oh-so-important six weeks to 9 January.
Sales in the UK rose a remarkable 8.3% - and 4.9% per unit of selling space, adjusted for the VAT changes and excluding petrol.
This was Tesco's best performance for three years. Recession, what recession?
And it looks a better performance than Sainsbury, whose sales rose 4.2% on a fully adjusted, underlying or like-for-like basis during the 13 weeks to 2 January.
So Sainsbury's plucky attempt to catch up with Tesco may have been staunched a bit.
Equally striking are the figures for December from the British Retail Consortium, which showed a total sales rise by its assorted retailing members of 6%.
It certainly looks as though British consumers pushed the boat out at Christmas and just after - which thanks to the record low interest rates we've been enjoying, we had the resources to do.
Is it all good news?
Not in general and not for all stores groups.
First, Marks and Spencer will face even more challenging questions about why its Christmas has apparently been rather worse than the average (though Debenhams' sales figures today don't sparkle either).
Second, as I have been banging on about for an age, British households remain massively in debt by historic standards, having borrowed more than the value of everything we produce. If there has been a hiatus in paying down that debt, which there may have been, it can only be temporary.
Which means that retailers will probably soon find again that extracting wonga from our pockets is challenging.
Third, interest rates will one day increase (oh yes) - which will only boost shoppers' propensity to spend less and save more.
Fourth, taxes are absolutely certain to rise, which will inevitably dampen spending.
So it's a happy but slightly anxious new year on the High Street.
Oh, and for the record, on the basis of these numbers - and in a technical sense - the recession must have ended.
Apparently the comparison between the underlying sales performance of Sainsbury and Tesco is muddied by their different treatment of purchases made by customers with loyalty vouchers.
These are included in Tesco's like-for-like figures but not in Sainsbury's - so Sainsbury insists that on a strict interpretation of underlying sales, it is still doing as well (if not better) than Tesco.
I'm not going to adjudicate on this spat, except to point out that the difference between the sales peformance of the two in the latest period plainly isn't very significant.