Retail Sales Strong In January Despite Snow

Retail sales grew at their fastest rate in 13 months in January despite heavy snow across the country, the latest figures have revealed.

Last month's like-for-like retail sales were up 1.9% on the previous year, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Online sales in January were also strong - more than 10% higher compared to the same month in 2012.

Sales of televisions, tablet computers and smartphones were especially strong, the BRC said.

It comes after December's figures disappointed ahead of Christmas.

BRC Director General Helen Dickinson said: "After a fairly subdued December, these results are sure to lift spirits for many.

"People were tempted out by offers and promotions but also treated themselves to full-price and premium products early in January, particularly must-have technology items.

"These factors, coupled with recovering consumer confidence, have added up to a more successful January than we saw last year."

She added that although the snow hit sales, its impact was limited and did not cancel out the month's otherwise high sales.

"Its force was felt in some areas more than others - footwear performed well thanks to a 'boots boost' but it wasn't such a good month for clothing," she said.

The figures revealed that the mood was "lifting a little" for both customers and retailers, the BRC said.

But despite January's strong sales, three high street stalwarts called in administrators over the course of the month. 

Head of retail at accountancy group KPMG, David McCorquodale, said advances in technology had hastened the demise of HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops, which have all collapsed since the start of the year.

But he added: "Many retailers will look back at the last two months with pride after implementing successful seasonal campaigns where they have served the customer well.

"Sales are only one side of the equation and time will soon reveal the true cost of the promotions and margin squeezes used to drive these sales.

"However, it is encouraging to see such positive results in what is traditionally a challenging month."

The BRC results come as a Markit/Cips Purchasing Managers' Index for the UK's dominant service sector reveal rising optimism among firms during January.

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