Making sense of the past seven days
The Office for National Statistics' retail sales monitor always seems to turn out a result that is at odds with the more respected BRC and CBI numbers. And, characteristically, its January numbers - showing a significant fall in sales volumes - was in contrast to the other, more upbeat, surveys.

So maybe we shouldn't be alarmed by biggest month-on-month fall in sales volumes recorded by the ONS for four years. But, actually, on this occasion the Government agency is closer to the mark than its critics give it credit for.

The problem with the more upbeat sales reports is that they are reflecting the outstanding performance of a handful of very large retailers - namely the grocers, as well as John Lewis and Marks & Spencer.

Take these retailers out of the market and most other businesses are suffering. Non-food retailers, and particularly those at the big-ticket end of the market, are feeling the pinch as consumers rein in discretionary spend.

February is always a cruel month for retailers. After the hubbub of Christmas and the January Sales, consumers are always cautious, the grey weather discourages spending on spring fashions and, Valentine's Day aside, there are no major events to stimulate spend.

So, despite the positive numbers overall, the success of a handful of big boys is coming at the expense of a whole host of smaller players. Times are tough, and the next month will be crucial for the many retailers that are looking forward to the next rent quarterday in late march with trepidation.

The chances are that when the landlords come knocking, it will sound the death knell for some of the high street's laggards.