January sales were driven by a short but strong shopping burst

January sales were driven by a short but strong shopping burst

UK consumer spending continues to be undermined by economic worries, even though pent-up demand after December's snow, pre-VAT rise purchases and clearance bargains boosted UK retail sales in January, according to figures released today (8 February).

Like-for-like UK retail sales values were up 2.3% on last January, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said, with total sales 4.2% higher than a year ago.

However, while non-food sales rose at the start of the month, sales have since fallen back, hit by consumer caution.

Non-food non-store (internet, mail-order and phone) sales growth also fell back in January after picking up in November and December. Sales were 12.3% higher than a year ago.

"On the surface, this is the best sales growth since last March, but that's not the whole story," explained Stephen Robertson, BRC director general.

"Comparisons are with a feeble, snow-hit performance a year ago. Growth this January was driven by a relatively short but strong burst of non-food buying early in the month.

"Later in the month sales of non-food goods slowed, particularly for bigger items, as the reality of worries about jobs and personal finances returned to customers' minds."

Robertson warned: "Turning round consumer confidence is central to turning round the economy. A range of pressures is bearing down on customers. As it considers the Budget, the Government must not add any more."