LONDON (AP) -- Retail sales in the United Kingdom fell 1.3 percent in January from December, largely due to an increase in sales tax, but were still 3.2 percent higher than a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics said Friday.
Sales excluding auto fuel were down 0.6 percent from December.
Retail sales had been expected to slow in January with the end of a temporary 15 percent sales tax rate, now back to 17.5 percent.
"Weak retail sales in January reinforce concerns that the U.K. economy could suffer a double dip in the early months of 2010 after staggering out of recession in the fourth quarter of 2009," said Howard Archer, economist at IHS Global Insight.
"The muted outlook for consumer spending underpins our belief that the economy will find it very difficult to grow by more than 1.0 percent in 2010," Archer added.