It was a story of two halves at retail in January, according to the BDO High Street Sales Tracker.
Like for likes for the month fell by 1.4 per cent compared to last year. Sales plunged by double digit levels during the first ten days, which can mainly be attributed to the cold weather.
Trade did improve later in the month, however, with fashion stores in particular ending on a high (up 0.4 per cent).
Across other categories, the recovery in trade was slower, with demand remaining negative for much of the month. Home-related stores were the biggest losers (down 8.2 per cent), due in large part to weak demand for furniture, while luxury and leisure stores also had a difficult month.
"Notwithstanding the negative weather impact, Janaury was always going to be a difficult month, what with customers bringing forward the bulk of their purchases in December to take advantage of promotions ahead of the VAT increase," explained Don Williams, head of retail at BDO.
"Given these factors it's not a surprise to see sales fall. However, there are signs that trade is now recovering, especially across clothing stores. The big worry is that as we move through the year sales will suffer as economic fears take a grip."