Furniture turned in a solid performance this January – an important month for the category – despite being against a tough January 2014 comparable, according to the newest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor. Home accessories growth was close to that of furniture, helped by seasonal sales, but also the launch of new ranges.

The GfK’s Climate for Major Purchase Index achieved its best score since the 2007 recession, up 5 in January from -1 in December. The best growth was recorded for bedroom furniture.

Total UK retail sales increased by 0.2%, on a like-for-like basis from January 2014, when they had increased 3.9% on the preceding year. On a total basis, sales were up 1.6%, against a 5.4% rise in January 2014 and above the 12-month average of 1.4%.

Adjusted for the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index deflation, total growth was 2.9%.

The performance of non-food categories was helped by the continuation of end-of-season sales into January, while online sales of non-food products in the UK grew 11.7% in January versus a year earlier, when it had grown 19.2%.

Helen Dickinson, director general, British Retail Consortium, says: "Retail sales have continued to grow with January reporting a respectable 1.6% increase. Looking into the numbers a little more closely gives us even more cause for optimism - last year retailers had a bumper January so to see growth against such a tough comparison shows the industry to be in rude health. Customers were offered attractive bargains on winter ranges but it remains to be seen at what cost to the retailers’ margins.

David McCorquodale, head of retail, KPMG, adds: “After a subdued December, retailers experienced a semi-revival in fortunes as shoppers took advantage of the bargains on offer in the January sales. The clothing, toys and household appliances sectors particularly benefitted from this spending spree, notching up year-on-year growth against tough comparables from the year before.

“These figures clearly demonstrate the difficult cycle that retailers are trapped in. Demand is now almost solely driven by discounts, with shoppers very reluctant to buy goods at full price in the hope that yet another sale could be just around the corner. This promotion-led environment risks becoming the new normal – retailers are struggling to persuade consumers to break the habit and go back to the traditional sales cycle."