Retail sales edged up 0.2% in volume year-on-year, excluding fuel, in January according to the ONS however food sales fell 2.6% to the lowest level since April 2004.

Retail experts said the worse-than-expected figures represented another blow for the high street.

Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking retail sector lead Keith Richardson said: “The figures indicate a disappointing start to the year. The number of high street insolvencies so far in 2013 and the prevailing economic headwinds suggest that it’s going to be another challenging year for retailers.”

Heavy snowfall in the latter half of January hindered grocery sales, especially in smaller stores while larger outlets benefited from a rise in online shopping.

Food sales online jumped 27.1% and now equates to 3.7% of all food purchases.

The overall value of sales, excluding fuel, edged up 1.2% year-on-year.

However, value was flat against the previous month and volumes dipped 0.5%.

Deloitte UK head of retail Ian Geddes said: “Today’s figures bring into sharp focus the unsettled picture for UK retailers. Despite a decent Christmas and tight stock management ensuring effective seasonal discounting, today’s figures are another blow for the high street. However, online and mobile channels have continued to see significant year-on-year growth.”