An illuminated sale sign is seen on the exterior of the Harrods department store in London, Britain, January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Retail sales returned to growth in January, after the disappointing figures in December and despite a dip in footfall.

Total sales rose by 2.2 percent year on year and like for like sale grew by 1.8 percent, according to BRC Retail Sales Monitor.

Food sector continued its good performance with total average sales for the three month period ending in January registering 2.4 percent growth, whereas the corresponding figure for all categories was just 0.8 percent.

The growth figure, driven by discounts, could not be seen as a “real improvement,” said Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail at KPMG.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

As per the BRC’s Footfall And Vacancies Monitor, the retail footfall has seen a decline by 0.7 percent year on year in January. The three month average also shows a decline by the same amount. Though the fall was less than the previous year, it remains as a concern, warned analysts.

“We should not be persuaded that the drop in footfall in January of just -0.7% suggests trading conditions have stabilised. On closer interrogation, the clear fact is that all of this improvement emanates from the first week when footfall rose by +2.6% whilst dropping by an average of -2.1% over the three