November better than expected
Retail sales have picked-up according to the British Retail Consortium, which reported a rise in November, the first in eight months.

Like-for-like retail sales grew by 0.8 per cent last month, as the winter weather finally set in across the UK. The figures will be welcome news for retailers, many of which are expecting a slow festive period.

The BRC's Retail Sales Monitor was last in positive territory in March. It is thought that clothing and footwear sales were boosted by the colder weather, together with widespread promotions and Sale days. Food sales also showed growth last month.

'While the growth in November was against a weak comparison in November 2004, it is better than many had expected, and the lift out of negative territory is encouraging in itself,' said BRC director-general Kevin Hawkins.

Investec retail analyst Matthew McEachran said the results were positive. However, he remained cautious, saying: 'November sales were their best for over a year but should not be extrapolated out as comparatives were soft. We remain cautious on future spending trends, although some home segments should soon benefit from increased housing market activity.'

According to the report, ready meals and pre-packed salads were popular food items. Bonfire Night also gave the food sector a boost at the beginning of the month.

Women and children's footwear outperformed men's and, although younger fashions outstripped older more classic ranges, trendy skinny jeans lost favour among shoppers.

Sales were mixed across the electronics sector. In recent weeks, John Lewis has notched up good sales in this category. However, today's figures show that others struggled as underlying trading conditions remained difficult.

Leisure goods showed some improvement, led by the release of several DVDS, including Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and War of the Worlds.

Department stores showed disappointing sales of homewares and furniture. Trade remained tough for furniture and carpets, and DIY and gardening were generally weak.

It was a difficult month for the health and beauty category, although the colder weather boosted sales of cold remedies and vitamins, particularly fish oils.

To view the BRC's Retail Sales Monitor in full, visit our Market Data section.