January sales growth worst in 15 years

Retailers have suffered the worst January sales since 1995 as the recession and heavy snowfall impacted sales, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Sales fell 0.7% on a like-for-like basis, which excludes store expansions and closures, against January last year when sales rose 1.1%

The “big freeze” boosted food sales in the first week of January as shoppers stocked up but non-food sales suffered as consumers cut back on discretionary purchases.

Non-store sales, including online shopping were up 14.6% on a year ago, as some online retailers benefited from shoppers buying online when they were unable to reach shops because of snow.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC says the “awful” figures show a month of two halves as sales recovered in the second half of the month after a slow start.

He adds: “Most non-food sectors had a poor start, though nearly all recovered towards the end of the month. Furniture and DIY were worst hit as customers put off buying non-essentials. The VAT change brought some sales forward to December, but customers are becoming cautious again in the face of economic and political uncertainty. Retailers will be hoping these results are mainly a snow induced blip, rather than an indication of further difficulties.”

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