UK retail sales figures released on Friday show the fastest decline of in-store spending in four years.

The official figures for January from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show retail sales volumes dropped by 0.3% compared with the previous month, well below the 0.9% rise expected.

The ONS said evidence suggested higher fuel and food prices were key factors.

Compared with January 2016, sales were up 1.5%, the weakest performance since November 2013.

Declining footfall in January correlates closely with the overall decline in sales, indicating bricks and mortar stores remain key to the health of the industry, according to systems integrator World Wide Technology (WWT).

Whilst operating in difficult market conditions and competing with e-commerce giants, UK retailers can take quick and easy steps to align their stores with consumer preferences, says WWT’s Director UK and Ireland, Ben Boswell.

“The new retail landscape needs to focus more squarely on blending digital and physical stores – ‘clicks and mortar’. Retailers should avoid gimmicks and focus on integrating simple solutions,” he comments.

“If not, they will find themselves easily surpassed by the likes of Amazon. The data analytics capabilities of these e-commerce giants allows them to predict individual consumer preferences and make real-time recommendations. Retailers who are trapped by legacy systems and siloed architectures, where the only digital footprint might be a credit card payment, need to start smaller.

“We need a step-by-step approach to re-imagining the physical store – giving priority to the online features such as delivery options and personalised offers. Integrating these digital technologies with their in-person service, retailers can quickly set a new standard for in-store customer experience.”

World Wide Technology (WWT) is a technology solution provider with more than $9 billion in annual revenue.