Retail like-for-like sales were down 4.1 per cent in the week ending July 19 as swine flu shook consumer confidence.

Total sales also fell 4.1 per cent, according to the BDO Stoy Hayward’s High Street Sales Tracker.

Fashion declined 8 per cent in what was a “lacklustre week”, with “most stores’ takings declining across most categories”. Some retailers suffered their worst performance for more than two months as they changed focus to new full-priced lines.

Non-fashion total sales increased 3.8 per cent, boosted by the start of the school summer holidays. Leisure good ands gifting “led the way” for a second week, while luxury “remained strong”, according to BDO Stoy Hayward. Health and beauty remained weaker.

Homewares had an “excellent week”, with sales jumping 6.5 per cent, with takings growing at their fastest rate since mid-May.

Non-store sales rocketed 32.9 per cent.

Retail partner at BDO Stoy Hayward Don Williams said: “Overall sales were in negative territory for a fourth consecutive week, as continued uncertainty about the economy and fears over swine flu played on the minds of consumers.

“Trade via non-store channels were also relatively weak as the transition from summer clearance to full priced stock failed to stimulate significant new demand.

“However, it is encouraging to see that homewares and non-fashion bucked this downward trend this week, with homewares in particular seeing an upturn in sales. Hopefully, the seasonal boost from the start of the school summer holidays will help supplement this positive movement.”