Little to cheer about

The worst high street retail market since records began in 1945 made a gloomy start to the year.

Shoppers largely ignored massive price cuts in the New Year' Sales' which fell by 1.3 per cent, according to the Office for National Statistics. Food sales fell by only 0.5 per cent - a better result than the non-food retailers, which saw sales slump by 1.9 per cent.

Meanwhile, Chip and PIN has been ushered in as the latest weapon in the fight against high street fraud - ushering in an era in which a personal four-digit number is required when using most credit or debit cards.