In January this year, furniture was the best-performing retail category in terms of total sales in physical stores (the category ranked fifth online), according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

On a total basis, sales increased by +2.2%, against an increase of +1.4% in January 2018. This was the highest growth since June, and above both the three-month and 12-month averages of +0.8% and +1.2%, respectively. UK retail sales increased by 1.8% YoY on a LFL basis.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, says: “There was a welcome return to growth this month after December’s disappointing sales figures. But while retail discounts helped tempt cautious consumers, there is no guarantee this momentum will continue after the sales have finished. And it will not just be brick-and-mortar stores looking nervously to the future, as online sales continued to grow below the long-term trend. 

“Furthermore, the risk of a disruptive no-deal Brexit could see these fortunes reversed. Unless the Government want to see well-known brands disappearing from our high streets in 2019, they should work with their colleagues in Parliament to find a solution that avoids the shock of a no-deal Brexit on 29th March and removes the risks to UK consumers.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, adds: “Following the worst December trading performance in a decade, January brought a welcome improvement with total retail sales up +2.2%. Having said that, this increase points more to British shoppers’ obsession of bagging a bargain and price inflation, rather than any real improvement, and these peaks and troughs continue to leave retailers feeling increasingly anxious.  

“The colder weather and continual discounting drove up fashion sales, whilst the increased focus indoors also boosted furniture sales. However, not all categories or players have been so fortunate, and even online growth continued to slow.  

“Eyes are naturally fixed on who the next casualty will be, but we can’t afford to overlook those excelling despite adverse conditions. Winning retailers remain attractive to investors and consumers – they are adaptive and agile, and ultimately they continue to outperform in this rapidly evolving market.”

Online penetration rate increased from 28.2% in January 2018 to 29.4% last month.