Retailers are reporting strong peak season sales despite playing “catch-up” due to a sluggish start.

The trade blamed the timing of Christmas and New Year bank holidays and continuing Brexit concerns for the slow start to 2018.

Alistair Rowland, group general manager of specialist retail for The Midcounties Co-operative, said: “The market was always going to be tough this year because of the way the bank holidays fell, so most retailers will be playing catch-up.

“But it looks like this week will cover the shortfall and sales will be level by the end of this week and 5% up by the end of month.”

Spear Travels managing director Peter Cookson blamed Brexit uncertainty but said sales were at last picking up. “Monday and Tuesday this week finally showed some promise, although we are still down on last year,” he added.

Sales across Advantage Travel Partnership members last week were ahead on last year, according to head of commercial John Sullivan. He said he expected sales to pick up as the month goes on.

But Carolyn Park, director of C The World, said peaks business had been busier than usual. “The rush started on January 1 – two weeks earlier than usual,” she said.

Similarly, operators reported strong sales. Carrier has enjoyed its strongest-ever start to peaks, with a record 68% year-on-year rise in sales for the first week in January, while Olympic Holidays has reported one of its busiest turn-of-year booking periods of recent years.

Deals site said searches for all-inclusive or half-board holidays were up a third on last year, and more than 40% of users were looking at four-star resorts.

Data analytics firm Beyond Analysis, which takes information from Travelport’s GDS, reported a 35% increase in bookings this month up to January 8 compared with last year.

Meanwhile, Tui is returning to Tunisia for the first time this summer since the Sousse massacre in 2015.