Some 63% of retailers saw year-on-year sales volumes fell in the first half of January, according to the CBI’s Distributive Trades Survey.
Just 16% of retailers said that early January sales volumes were up on the same time last year. This was a balance of -47%, representing a heavy fall in sales, although this was slightly slower than in December and broadly in line with expectations.
A balance of 52% of retailers expect sales to decline in February - the weakest forecast since the survey began in July 1983.
The three-month moving average of sales volumes weakened to a balance of -49%, a record low.
The CBI said that footwear and leather was the only sector to record sales growth.
Andy Clarke, chairman of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel and retail director of Asda, said: “The Christmas and new year trading period revealed mixed fortunes with clear divisions between value and premium retailers. Retailers caught in the middle will continue to suffer as customers vote with their feet.”
“As petrol costs and food inflation have come down and household energy bills are beginning to ease, consumers will have a bit more spending power, but as job losses increase retailers will face a difficult year.”