UK retail sales fell unexpectedly in January, for a second consecutive month, as snowfall kept consumers at home and incomes remained under pressure, hurting spending on food, household goods and auto fuel.
Volumes fell 0.6% from December 2012, hurt by heavy snowfall, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. Volumes also fell 0.6% from a year ago, the first annual fall in 17 months.
Clearly, the snow and ice affected footfall as people were unable, or unwilling, to go to the shops.
The ONS highlighted weak sales in the food sector, which dropped 2.6% year-on-year to the lowest level since April 2004. It also said small stores had fared worse than large stores.
Smaller retailers in the food sector suggested that the heavy snow seen in the second half of January had affected sales.
In contrast, larger retailers suggested that some of the increase they saw came from a rise in online sales. The amount spent online accounted for 10.1% of all retail spending, excluding fuel.
In the food sector, the proportion of online sales rose 27% on the year. That meant that online sales now make up a record 3.7% of all food sales.
The weakness of Britain's high streets has also been underscored by the collapse of companies including HMV, the UK's biggest seller of CDs and DVDs, and camera retailer Jessops.
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