The embattled UK high street has had its worst January of trading for the last four years, according to new figures, with fashion retailers taking the biggest hit.
Like-for-like sales on the high street fell by 0.1 per cent in January, as compared to the same month last year, according to figures from accountancy firm BDO.
This was the first negative growth during January – a month in which retailers normally boost sales by discounting – since 2013. Fashion sales fell furthest of any category, down by one per cent.
The figures come after a dismal year for the fashion industry, which fell into its steepest decline since 2009. Several retailers that grew their businesses by selling clothes have been forced to start expanding in other areas.
The third week of January was particularly dismal for high street retailers. Store sales dropped by 4.5 per cent for the week as shoppers sought to avoid cold weather.
Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: "By the third week of January, many retailers began to transition between discounted and new lines.
"Although the weather was a factor in discouraging people from visiting the shops, retailers shouldn't become distracted by this. Those with a strong online presence were able to combat falling footfall with strong online sales, particularly in week three, highlighting the need for investment across all channels."
She said that several retailers will be "concerned about the year ahead" due to the uncertainty surrounding UK consumer confidence. Inflation is already kicking in, with data showing that consumers are already having to spend more on essentials, such as food and fuel, and are reigning in spending on other goods, such as electricals.
Currency movements will also inflated operational costs for retailers. DFS warned in its trading update yesterday that it was having to negotiate price changes with suppliers due to the increased sourcing cost of its goods.