Retailers enjoyed a surprise rise in trade last month as the January sales helped drag shop price inflation to its lowest level for more than two years, official figures revealed today.
Sales volumes rose 0.9% between December and January, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), whereas the City had expected a 0.4% fall.
The figures suggested that January's shop prices were 2.2% higher than a year ago, the smallest rise since November 2009, as shoppers benefited from falling inflationary pressures and retailers putting on a blizzard of discounts to woo cash-strapped consumers.
Every sector apart from clothes stores reported a slower rate of price increases than the previous month.
But with internet outlets and supermarkets among the biggest drivers of the increase in volumes, fears persist for the future of the high street.
A separate survey revealed today that chains shut an average of 14 shops a day last year as retailers increasingly shifted their focus to out-of-town sites and the internet.
It was the first time since 2008 that multiple retailers failed to open as many stores as they closed.