Retailers may have had a better January than they expected, but their new year celebrations were shortlived, writes The Times (£). Sales performance has fallen back this month, reviving concerns about prospects on the high street. According to the CBI’s distributive trades survey, the balance of reported sales volumes fell to +10 in February from +16 in January. The forecast for this month had been +12. (The Times £)

“A bumper January for retailers has turned into a lacklustre February as shoppers reacted to news of falling wage growth and the slowing economy by closing their wallets and deserting the high street,” writes The Guardian. The CBI said its members in the retail industry were planning to slightly scale back investment spending this year after two quarters when firms expected to raise their capital outlay. (The Guardian)

Marijn Dekkers has been nominated to succeed Michael Treschow as chairman of Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods group, after stepping down as chief executive of Bayer at the end of April. The new role for Mr Dekkers was announced hours after Bayer confirmed that he would be replaced by Werner Baumann at the helm of the German life sciences group from May. Dekkers had been expected to leave Bayer at the end of this year but he told the FT on Wednesday that the timetable had been accelerated because his main strategic objectives were complete. (The Financial Times £)

Ministers are facing a legal action to stop them pressing ahead with proposals to allow shops to open for longer on Sundays. The Government has been issued with a “letter before action” from the Keep Sunday Special group, setting out plans for a future Judicial Review on the proposals to allow councils to allow shops to open longer on Sundays. (The Telegraph)

The FT looks at Sainsbury’s rival for Argos Steinhoff today, noting that the Home Retail bid first its “bold” strategy of expansion across Europe, African and Australia. Steinhoff International has always been something of an anomaly in South Africa, ostensibly its home market for two decades,” the paper writes. “Despite being listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange since 1998, the group’s primary source of profits and revenue has been Europe… and for much of that period it has operated under the radar, while straddling two continents. But its profile is rising rapidly.” (The Financial Times £)

Meanwhile, Britain’s recovery faces a cocktail of risks including the EU referendum, soaring house prices and turmoil in the global economy, the International Monetary Fund warned yesterday. Managing director Christine Lagarde risked the wrath of Eurosceptics by highlighting the perceived threat of a so-called Brexit in the referendum in June. (The Daily Mail)

The warning came as Sterling sunk below $1.39 against the US dollar for the first time in seven years as uncertainty over Britain’s potential ‘Brexit’ from the EU continues to take its toll on the pound. Britain’s biggest bank, HSBC, claimed today that between 15 and 20 per cent could be wiped off the value of the pound if Britain votes to leave the European Union. (The Daily Mail)

The return of European sugar exports to world markets next year is one of the biggest changes in the sector since reforms in 2006, when Brussels imposed production quotas and export limits. Next year production and export restrictions will be lifted as part of the Common Agricultural Policy reforms, and European sugar groups will be able to produce and export as much as they want. (The Financial Times £)