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January sales up as food and drink impress

Published:  23 July, 2008

January saw a 2.6% increase in like-for-like retail sales with the food and drink sector performing encouragingly, new British Retail Consortium (BRC) figures show.

The increase compares with a growth rate of 3.1% this time last year.

For the three months to the end of January, the overall rate of growth rose to 1.5%, up from 0.8% in December for like-for-like sales.

Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, said: "Following three months of weak year-on-year growth, this appears to be significantly better, but the figures don't mean consumer confidence is reviving yet.

"The headline results conceal a mixed picture. In part, rising overall sales values were caused by increases in some food prices."

Food sales picked up after slowing in December, the BRC said. They rose by 2% on a like-for-like basis compared with January 2007. The month-on-month increase was also 2%.

IGD chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch commented:

"Despite the gloomy economic sentiment, the UK food and drink sector made a good start to 2008. Growth is faster than at any time since the summer of 2006, with both headline and like-for like growth running above the long-term industry trend.

"Festive seasonal spending and food price changes have contributed to this month's growth but grocery retailers have more than played their part. Many started 2008 with a bang, driving consumer interest with New Year sales. As confidence wavers, all will seek to emphasise value in a challenging market."

BRC senior analyst Joscelyne Hynard said the results for food and drink were the best since March 2007.