UK retail sales fall in January but outlook remains positive
Retail sales in the UK fell in January after the pre-Christmas surge in spending, figures have shown, but sales remained stronger than a year earlier.
Sales volumes fell by 1.5% last month, but this followed a strong increase in December when sales jumped by 2.5%.
However, sales in January remained 4.3% higher than a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics figures showed.
Analysts said this showed the underlying picture remained positive for the sector.
"UK retail sales fell sharply in January, though the very strong figure in December always meant a drop was likely," said David Tinsley at BNP Paribas.
"Despite the drop, there remains some solid momentum in retail sales," he added.
"While some of the pace of growth has eased back in the sector, it looks likely to still make a significant contribution to GDP growth in Q1."
The ONS said that sales over the past three months compared with the previous three months - seen as a better measure of the underlying trend - were up 1.1%.
The drop in sales during January from the month before was mainly due to weak trading at supermarkets and a fall in clothing sales.
However, the ONS said non-food stores had seen "notable" annual sales growth, up 8% from a year earlier.
Shops selling household goods recorded growth of 9.8% from a year earlier - the strongest rate since July 2007 - although the ONS said the figure may have been boosted by weak sales in January 2013 when heavy snowfall affected trading.
Ian Geddes, UK head of retail at Deloitte, said: "In stark contrast to the flurry of January administrations seen in recent years, we saw no major retailers go under last month. This is a clear sign of the sector's improving health.
"Despite the adverse weather that has affected the start of the year, retailers will be hoping that strong sales will continue into 2014."