Bad weather brought sales growth on the high street to a 15-year low in January down 0.7% on a like-for-like basis.

On a total basis, sales rose 1.2% against a 3.2% increase in January 2009 according to the British Retail Consortium Retail Sales Monitor.

Although the snow helped food sales in early January, as shoppers stocked up on essentials, non-food and discretionary items were hit. However as the snow thawed non-food did have a partial recovery, growing 1.6% like-for-like for the month. Food sales grew 2.5%.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “An awful start to the year and in stark contrast to an upbeat December. This is the worst January growth in total sales in the 15 years we’ve been running the survey. It was a month of two halves with a focus on must-haves early on. The coldest January since 1987 boosted food sales at the start of the month, as shoppers stocked up. But food sales growth melted with the snow. The month as a whole was significantly weaker than December.”

Online and mail order sales were 14.6% higher in January, compared to a 26.5% growth in December. Some online retailers were helped by the bad weather that prevented some shoppers leaving home.