Phones 4U in central London
A shopper looks at smartphones at a branch of UK retailer Phones 4U in central London

The value of retail sales in the UK has increased 3 percent year-on-year in January, compared to a 1.5 percent growth in December, indicating a slight improvement in the struggling retail sector.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that the year-on-year sales growth, achieved in spite of heavy snow in many parts of the UK during the month, was the highest since September 2012.

Like-for-like retail sales, a measure which excludes the impact of new store openings and closures, rose 1.9 percent in January from the year-ago month, when they declined 0.3 percent. The January growth rate was the highest for 13 months.

As more and more Britons were attracted to e-commerce, online sales rose 10.1 percent over January 2012, when they had risen by 11.3 percent, BRC noted.

"People were tempted out by offers and promotions but also treated themselves to full-price and premium products early in January, particularly must-have technology items. These factors, coupled with recovering consumer confidence, have added up to a more successful January than we saw last year, Helen Dickinson, BRC director general, said in a statement.

January witnessed strong food sales, with the first acceleration in food's three month growth rate since last July. Technology items such as tablet computers and high-end smartphones also attracted increased demand, according to BRC.

"It's a strong start to what is anticipated to be a tough year for the sector," said David McCorquodale, head of the UK retail practice of accountancy firm and BRC survey sponsor KPMG.

"Many retailers will be pleased with their sales campaigns as 2013 roared into life producing double-digit sales increases in several categories in the first week. Sadly a blanket of snow mid-month slowed the charge as Payday approached."

The positive news would provide some relief for the high street, which experienced a difficult January with HMV, Blockbusters and Jessops entering into administration.