CUT-PRICE clothes and footwear helped drive an unexpected 0.7% rise in retail sales during January, official figures showed.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that revenues for non-food goods rose by 1.6% between December and January as stores staged their traditional clearance sales. The improvement offset a 1% decline in food sales.

The month-on-month rise in total sales was higher than the 0.2% increase expected by experts.

Earlier this month, the British Retail Consortium reported a surprise increase in January sales figures as heavy discounting drove the best high street performance since May.