ONS figures show sales growth slows at non-food stores
The consumer love affair with retailing has effectively come to a halt, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics. The volume of retail sales in the three months to the end of January was the same as the previous three months, at about 4.3 per cent growth, year on year. This is the lowest rate of growth since April 2003. Sectors showing the strongest growth were clothing and home shopping. Other non-food stores showed a decrease of 0.9 per cent.

Commentators were inclined to look on the bright side however. Barclays Business Banking national retail director Paul Clarke said: 'Whilst Christmas and New Year sales were slightly disappointing, they were not as bad as suggested by some commentators. We have seen year-on-year growth in most sub-sectors. However, big-ticket items have been the most vulnerable to the more cautious consumer.'

Seymour Pierce analyst Rhys Williams agreed that the ONS figures showed a decent performance over the past thee months. However, he noted that weekend demand has fallen, dragging down with it firmer weekday volumes in recent months.