Retail sales got off to a disappointing start in the New Year, the CBI reported.

The business organisation’s Distribute Trades Survey showed sales volume rose for 28% of retailers in the year to early January and fell for 36%. The resulting balance of -8% was below expectations that performance would be flat on last year.

Snow and the VAT rise are likely to have had an impact on sales and retailers expect February turnover to be similar to last year’s comparable period. Aggressive discounting in January may also have contributed to the sales decline.

Asda chief operating officer and chairman of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel Andy Clarke said: “2010 has opened on a weak footing, especially to the tail-end growth of 2009, but the picture should stabilise in February.

“Overall, the recovery through 2010 is likely to be tentative and weak with a long road to recovery and consumers are still cautious about spending.”