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Consumers 'keep an eye on savings'

Consumers are keeping an eye on their finances this winter, preferring to save their money and get rid of debts rather than spend, new figures show.

Retail sales were down last month, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported, dropping 0.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis. This marked the second-worst January for the BRC since it began its survey 17 years ago. Last January, figures had gone up by 2.3 per cent.

The BRC said the decline was driven by a sharp slowdown in food sales, in the wake of the Christmas boost over December. Non-food sales were also weak.

Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, said: "Customers parked their worries in December and spent, encouraged by discounts. Now, in the new year, reality has bitten again as concerns about jobs, wages and household costs reassert themselves.

"Despite consumer confidence improving in January, actual spending shows households concentrating on paying off debt, saving and battening down for another tough year."

Copyright Press Association 2012