First month of the year provides a lift in an otherwise downward trend
Positive British Retail Consortium sales figures for January have provided a respite for retailers beset on all sides by predictions of gloom for the coming year. Contrary to Sunday press reports, the BRC Retail Sales Monitor, run in conjunction with KPMG, showed a year-on-year total sales increase for the month of 3.5 per cent. Like-for-like sales increased by 0.5 per cent.

However, the BRC warned retailers that consumers are still cautious over spending, particularly because the January Sales have now ended. Big-ticket purchases, such as furniture and large electricals, suffered in the month. Clothing and footwear performed better, although men's shoes continued to struggle.

BRC director-general Kevin Hawkins said: 'Following a relatively strong New Year's bank holiday, trading took a downward turn. Even extending some promotions and discounts and the pay-day boost later in the month could not tempt customers.'

Footwear benefited from clearance Sales at the beginning of the month and back-to-school sales. Food sales, however, were flat, with the usual January emphasis on healthy eating boosting diet foods, fresh fruit and vegetables. In the North, the cold snap boosted sales of soups and comfort foods.

Clothing was better overall in January than December. The cold weather helped sales of knitwear. Accessories, such as handbags, sold well in January.