UK retail sales increased by 0.2 per cent, on a like-for-like basis from January 2014, when they had increased 3.9 per cent on the preceding year, said the Brtish Retail Consortium. On a total basis, sales were up 1.6 per cent, against a 5.4 per cent rise in January 2014 and above the 12-month average of 1.4 per cent. Online sales of non-food products grew 11.7 per cent in January versus a year earlier.
BDO’s monthly High Street Sales Tracker saw the High Street growing two per cent year-on-year, predominately held up by the post-Christmas sales. But while the first week of 2015 produced the strongest weekly like-for-like figures for nine months (up 10.3 per cent), none of the following four weeks managed even one per cent year-on-year growth.
BDO retail and wholesale head Sophie Bevan said: "The widespread discounting strategy that many retailers have adopted towards the latter part of 2014 has had a knock-on effect on the traditional January sales. Following tradition, shoppers flocked to the stores in that first week after Christmas, but after that they lost interest pretty quickly. This is a completely different picture to last year, when we saw like-for-like growth of over 17 per cent in the third week of January.
"Despite the falling prices in oil and weekly food costs, the uncertainty surrounding the general election and negative news by the big supermarkets leaves consumers less inclined to spend. Consumers need a prolonged period of increases in their discretionary incomes to instil the confidence to motivate them to spend."
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: "Retail sales have continued to grow with January reporting a respectable 1.6 per cent increase. Looking into the numbers a little more closely gives us even more cause for optimism - last year retailers had a bumper January so to see growth against such a tough comparison shows the industry to be in rude health. Customers were offered attractive bargains on winter ranges but it remains to be seen at what cost to the retailers’ margins.
"Shoppers were in the mood to buy products aimed at helping them lead a healthier lifestyle - from fruit and veg to exercise equipment, all these kinds of products have been selling strongly. Given the time of year this is no surprise and retailers have capitalised by making sure they have the right stock, at the right price to help consumers achieve their New Year goals."
Garden centre sales were lifted by higher returns for clothing. Last January was a record for wetness, while January 2015 was the sunniest since 2003.
In the week to 31 January Waitrose supply chain director David Jones said: "Customers were evidently thinking of spring – horticulture sales of items such as flowers and outdoor plants were up by 12 per cent".