The UK high street reported a slight fall in year-on-year sales in early January, ending a three-month run of sales growth, according to the CBI business group.

Responding to a survey conducted from January 4-15, 28% of retailers said that the volume of sales in the year to early January had risen, while 36% said it had dropped. The resulting sales drop of 8% was weaker than predictions made last month, which expected sales to be flat on last year.

Weak sales during the traditional New Year sales period are likely to have been influenced by severe weather across the country and the rise in VAT.

Looking ahead to February, retailers expect that sales will be largely unchanged at -1% on their levels of a year ago.

CBI Distributive Trades Panel chairman Andy Clarke said: “2010 has opened on a weak footing, especially compared to the tail end growth of 2009, but the picture should stabilise in February. Also many retailers were much more aggressive in their discounting last January, which could partly explain why sales have slipped a bit this year.

“Overall, the recovery through 2010 is likely to be tentative and weak with a long road to recovery, and consumers are still cautious about spending.”

The results came on the day official figures showed the UK has officially moved out of recession.