Retail sales fell on a like-for-like basis during August as back-to-school sales were hit by the late bank holiday.

Sales decreased 1% on a like-for-like basis as non-food sales declined for the first time since August 2014, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

However, the figures were likely distorted by the fact that they do not include the bank holiday, which will be accounted for in the September period this year. At this time of the year parents are busy shopping for back-to-school essentials such as clothes, footwear and stationery, and those sales will peak later this year.

Big-ticket categories such as furniture and household appliances also experienced a decline in sales, again likely affected by the bank holiday distortion.

The dip in sales adds to a gloomy picture for retailers during August following figures from BDO revealing the high street recorded its worst performance last month since the height of the economic crisis.

On a total basis sales edged up 0.1% during August, according to the BRC’s figures. However, this compares with a 2.7% rise in total sales during the same period last year.

BRC director-general Helen Dickinson said: “There was better news for food sales this August with a clear improvement compared with July.

“This, coupled with a positive twelve-month average for the first time since August of last year, suggests there may be cause for optimism for food sales following a prolonged period of stagnation.”

In the three months to August, total food sales were up 0.3%.                             

KPMG head of retail David McCorquodale said: “As the summer bank holiday fell a week later this year, sales were pushed into September meaning top-line trends for August were inevitably dampened versus 2014.

 “September sales will get a shot in the arm from the bank holiday and the comradery of the Rugby World Cup. However, the fashion world will be hoping that last year’s ‘Indian summer’ does not repeat itself, resulting in heavy discounting to move seasonal items.”