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Retailers hit by worst January in 15 years as snow and VAT hike take toll

THE UK high street shuddered last month as retailers suffered their worst January in 15 years due to snow and a lack of consumer confidence, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) will say today.

Underlying sales values for January fell 0.7 per cent compared to a 2.6 per cent rise the year before.

On a total basis, sales edged up by 1.2 per cent compared to a 4.9 per cent increase in January 2009.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “This is an awful start to the year and in stark contrast to an upbeat December. The coldest January since 1987 boosted food sales at the start of the month, as shoppers stocked up. But food sales growth melted with the snow. The month as a whole was significantly weaker than December.”

The BRC survey echoed the latest survey from the CBI which showed that the volume of retail sales fell at the sharpest annual pace in five months during January, hit by the snow and VAT returning to its pre-crisis 17.5 per cent level.