Retail sales volumes grew in the year to December for the first time in seven months however sales were considered poor for the time of year according to the CBI.

Its latest monthly Distributive Trades Survey, which covers the first two weeks in December, showed that retailers did not expect December’s modest sales growth to continue into the New Year, with annual sales volumes predicted to fall again in January.

While 41% of companies said sales rose on last Decenmber, 32% reported a fall, giving a positive balance of 9%. This is the first positive balance since May.

However, volumes of sales were poor for the time of year, with a negative balance of 16% reporting a sales rise.

The three-month moving average, which smooths out monthly peaks and troughs, was negative for the fifth month running  at negative 7% and is expected to remain so in January.

There was a mixed picture across the sub-sectors. Grocers’ sales volumes rose with a positive balance of 52% and non-store retailing, which includes mail order and online a positive balance of 91% reported a sales rise.

Sales volumes fell on a year ago, however, for all sellers of big ticket durable household goods which had a negative balance of 100%.

Asda chief operating officer, and chair of the CBI distributive trades panel Judith McKenna said: “Early discounting helped retailers add a little extra sparkle to their sales in December, although the reprieve appears to only be temporary as they don’t expect sales to continue to grow into January.

“Consumers are continuing to hold off on purchasing big ticket items, including durable household goods, preferring to use their hard-earned cash to stock up for Christmas dinner and all important gifts for the family.”