The high street suffered its worst January for 15 years as snow and the increase in VAT combined to keep shoppers away from stores.

The British Retail Consortium called the start of 2010 “awful” in its latest bulletin, as like-for-like sales for the month fell 0.7%.

“It was a month of two halves, with a focus on must-haves early on,” said BRC director general Stephen Robertson.

“The coldest January since 1987 boosted food sales at the start of the month, as shoppers stocked up. But food sales growth melted with the snow. The month as a whole was significantly weaker than December.”

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Hot Topic: Sales saved from snow-blivion by workers' heroism (16 January 2010)
Big four set to lose £750m in sales during big freeze (16 January 2010)
Editor's Comment: VAT hike gives January sale claims an added élan (9 January 2010)