On a total basis, sales were up 3.3 per cent, against a 1.6 per cent rise in January 2015. This is the best growth since September, firmly ahead of the three-month average of 1.6 per cent and the 12-month average of 1.9 per cent.
Adjusted for the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index deflation, total growth was 5.1 per cent. All product categories contributed to the growth, apart from food, which turned slightly negative but the three-month and 12-month averages for food stayed unchanged from last month. Furniture topped the growth rankings table.
Online sales of non-food products grew 14.9 per cent in January versus a year earlier, when they had grown 11.7 per cent. The non-food online penetration rate was 21.5 per cent, up 1.4 percentage points from January 2015.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "Following on from a somewhat disappointing Christmas period for retailers, the new year kicked off to a strong start, with 3.3 per cent growth across all product categories and 2.6 per cent growth on like-for-like sales. This was the best performance for retailers since September and ahead of the three and twelve month averages.
"January’s performance was driven by big-ticket items, in particular furniture, which is encouraging in the largest month of the year for the category. However, the performance in clothing and footwear was driven by the New Year sales. After seeing a slight recovery in December, food sales were once again slightly down in January, while the mildly positive longer term trends were unchanged.
"Retailers will welcome the positive start to what will be a momentous year for the industry. Next month the Treasury will report back on its long awaited review of the business rates system. This is the moment for the government to rebalance this tax away from property intensive industries in order to ensure that the introduction of the living wage does not have unintended consequences on our local communities and jobs ."