Despite higher than expected retail sales growth in January brokers remained bearish about prospects for the rest of the year.

Retail sales rose 4.9 per cent in total and 2.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis last month, the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor revealed.

The rises were driven by discounting during the Sale period. A strong first week performance in January was not sustained over the rest of the month.

Rising food prices contributed to the increase, but clothing sales fell year on year for the fourth consecutive month.

Investec analyst David Jeary said: “We continue to see downward pressure on sector forecasts. With consumer confidence indices still weak, or weakening, the outlook does not appear favourable for retailers.”

Analysts at Citi, which forecast a 2.2 per cent comparable store sales fall across the sector this year, said there was clear evidence that recent interest rate rises and tighter credit conditions were having an impact. Citi said it expected negative clothing like-for-likes at Marks & Spencer, Next and Debenhams for the next six months.