By Daniel Hunter
UK retail sales values were up 1.9% on a like-for-like basis from January 2012, when they were down 0.3% on the preceding year. On a total basis, sales were up 3.0%, against a 2.1% rise in January 2012, according to the British Retail Consortium.
This is the highest total sales growth since September 2012 and like-for-like sales growth for 13 months.
Online sales were up 10.1% over January 2012, when they had risen by 11.3%.
Helen Dickinson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said: "After a fairly subdued December, these results are sure to lift spirits for many. Retailers didn't have high hopes for strong sales at Christmas, but this meant that they prepared well and headed into the New Year with less stock to clear than last year.
"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.
"Sales suffered during the recent cold snap, but it was thankfully short-lived and didn't cancel out the positive showing across the month as a whole. 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. Online sales growth returned to closer to the longer-run average after a bumper December.
"All in all, these figures give a sense that the mood is lifting a little for customers and retailers. Let's hope it continues."
David McCorquodale, Head of Retail, KPMG, said: "January's sales figures will give retailers reasons to be cheerful as like-for-like sales achieved the highest increase seen since December 2011. It's a strong start to what is anticipated to be a tough year for the sector.
"Many retailers will be pleased with their sales campaigns as 2013 roared into life producing double-digit sales increases in several categories in the first week. Sadly a blanket of snow mid-month slowed the charge as Payday approached.
"Targeted promotional campaigns from the grocers fighting for market share helped drive strong January food sales, which triggered the first acceleration in food's three month growth rate since last July.
"While technology advances may have hastened the demise of HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops, 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."