Clothing the top buy at the beginning of the year, while books prove far less popular
Retail sales in January were marginally weaker than a year ago, according to the latest figures from the CBI. However, the organisation stopped short of calling on the Bank of England to lower interest rates.

The CBI Distributive Trades Survey released today found that 30 per cent of retailers reported a rise in sales volumes compared with a year ago. However, 33 per cent claimed sales volumes were down for the month. The respondents said they expected a small increase in February sales volumes.

Sales growth in clothing performed the highest so far, since June. Specialist food and groceries also did well. The worst performers were booksellers and stationers.

CBI chief economic adviser Ian McCafferty said: 'January has proven slightly disappointing for many retailers, after the mixed performance in the run-up to Christmas. The data illustrates the ongoing slowdown in growth of consumer spending, and retailers expect the more modest pattern of sales to continue in coming months. However, it is always difficult to judge the underlying trend from activity over the Christmas period, so the Bank of England is likely to want more evidence before changing its stance on interest rates.'