The survey also showed that, in the year to January, orders placed on suppliers fell, also against expectations of growth.
Looking ahead to the next month, retailers expect similar growth in sales volumes and for orders with suppliers to be flat.
Within the retail sector, robust growth in sales volumes for grocers and non-store retailers offset the decline in furniture and carpets and specialist food and drink.
In contrast to headline retail sales, growth in online sales rose firmly in the year to January at the fastest rate since this time last year and beating expectations of a marked slowdown in growth. A similar rise in internet sales is expected next month.
Anna Leach, CBI head of economic intelligence, said: “Retailers have seen fairly modest sales growth this month overall, but it is online retailers who have set the pace during the January sales.
“Household spending will remain under pressure this year from higher inflation and low wage growth, which will continue to weigh on sales growth in the retail sector.”