Retail sales in the first two weeks of January were poor, according to the latest CBI survey.
The business group's monthly Distributive Trades Survey showed that 44 percent of retailers reported a fall in sales volumes on a year ago, compared with 22 percent reporting a rise. The 22 percent difference was the highest since March 2009 (- 44 percent).
The majority of retailers reported that sales were disappointing for the time of year and that orders were down, despite a better-than-expected December. There was also little optimism around sales for February.
Ian McCafferty, CBI chief economic adviser, said: "Shoppers have reined-in spending across the board at the start of the New Year after taking advantage of early discounting last month, which boosted pre-Christmas sales.
"Family budgets are under continuing pressure with inflation still high and wage increases modest.
"Consumers are still holding off particularly from buying big ticket items like washing machines and fridges. Online and mail order sales were the only areas that performed well in January, but growth was still down on last month."
The UK's biggest retailer, Tesco, stunned the market with poor Christmas figures last month.
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