December's much-vaunted recovery in UK retail sales was short-lived, with sales suffering a bigger-than-expected drop in January, the CBI has said.
Supermarkets were one of the few sectors to report a rise in sales
A CBI survey found that the balance of retailers reporting a rise in sales against those recording a decline fell to minus 11 in January.
Analysts had forecast a balance of minus two.
However, the CBI said stores were far more upbeat about February, with the expectations balance up to plus one.
Grocers, including supermarkets, reported the strongest increase in sales during January.
But leather and footwear shop sales fell back after a strong pre-Christmas boost.
"As retailers had feared, the spending surge seen in December was short-lived and not sustained into the New Year," said John Longworth, chairman of the CBI survey's panel.
While sales fell during the period in question, the drop was one of the smallest for eight months - leading to hopes that High Street sales could be about to pick up.
However, for this to happen stores would still "remain heavily dependent on price discounts and promotions", Mr Longworth added.
The CBI's findings echo a recent report from research group Footfall which activity on the UK's High Streets fell "severely" between 9 and 15 January.
Footfall put the decline down to people focusing on paying off debts and 2006's first bills.
Sales figures from retailers themselves have been mixed, with some shops performing well - such as Tesco and Marks and Spencer - and others like Next well down on last year.