It was the day the high street fought back - a host of upbeat trading statements gave hope that the retail sector may not be as deep in the mire as first feared.

The rebound came despite a British Retail Consortium survey earlier this week which claimed stores had endured their worst Christmas for three years and need a hefty cut in interest rates to boost consumer spending.

But a big test will come this morning when Marks & Spencer is due to provide an update.

Sainsbury's follows tomorrow. Monday had been grim, with the BRC saying like-for-like UK sales rose just 0.3 per cent last month, compared to 2.5 per cent growth in December 2006. BRC director general Kevin Hawkins said the figure signalled a "very challenging" start to the year for stores, and called on the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee to slash interest rates by 0.5 per cent when it makes its monthly announcement tomorrow.

And Howard Archer, from Global Insight, warned: "Consumer spending is now increasingly faltering in the face of mounting headwinds.

"We expect it to ease significantly in 2008 as consumers are increasingly pressurised by muted real disposable income growth, increased debt levels, a markedly softer housing market, tighter lending practices and the still significant overall rise in interest rates since August 2006."

But yesterday the retail sector shrugged off the gloom, staging its own version of "superTuesday".

Dunelm, the Midlands-based home furnishings retailer, reported a robust first half sales performance along with better margins.

For the 26 weeks to December 29 the group's total sales increased 10.6 per cent to £197.4 million, while sales on a like-for-like basis, which strips out the impact of new and closed space, increased 4.9 per cent.

Department store chain House of Fraser, with a major outlet in Birmingham city centre, said like-for-like sales for the five weeks to January 3 were up 2.4 per cent on the same period last year despite a "tough trading environment".

Like-for-like sales at rival John Lewis - which has a flagship store at the Touchwood Centre at Solihull - rose 6.2 per cent for the five weeks to January 5.

Waitrose was up 4.1 per cent excluding petrol. Domino's Pizza delivered a 17.6 per cent festive surge in sales as customers turned to the internet for their takeaway orders.

Annual profits are set to be ahead of market expectations after like-for-like sales jumped by 14.7 per cent in 2007.

And even strugglers came in with a bit of gloss on their outlook.

A post-Christmas trading revival came to the rescue of Bay Trading owner Alexon after it said profits would not be as bad as first feared.

The group, which also sells the brands Alex, Dash and Ann Harvey, said guidance in early December had been too cautious as a challenging run-up to Christmas was offset by stronger trading later in the holiday period.

Profits for the year to January 26 are now likely to be not less than £12.5 million, compared with the range of £11.5 million to £12.5 million indicated in the company's profits warning last month.

Even troubled camera retailer Jessops drew encouragement from Christmas trading after like-for-like sales returned to positive territory.

The group, which made losses of almost £70 million in its most recent financial year, said it had been left with much less stock after it tightly managed the business through the festive period.

Can M&S hold the line?

Not according to Nick Bubb, retail analyst at Pali International, who has cut his profit forecast and price target for M&S.

He has trimmed his year to the end of March pre-tax profit prediction from £1.04 billion to £1.01 billion and cut his price target from 560 pence to 510 pence.

He remains "neutral at best" on M&S relative to the sector.

The profit forecast and price target cuts reflects his assessment that M&S' third quarter like-for-like sales will only be flat.