According to the British Retail Consortium's (BRC) monthly sales figures, growth in the second quarter averaged just 2.5 per cent, despite June's improvement, compared with 3.5 per cent in the first quarter.
Consumer confidence also remained weak, dampened by interest rate rises. However, despite being more cautious about making major purchases, consumers are taking advantage of heavy discounting in anticipation of a further interest rate rise.
The BRC said sales patterns were distorted by exceptional weather both this June and last June. Figures were also affected by the World Cup last year and by some clearance sales starting earlier this year.
Torrential rain hit clothing, footwear, DIY and gardening, but did drive footfall in department stores. However, food sales slowed against last year - which were boosted by World Cup festivities - and gains in homewares and furniture were largely driven by discounting.
BRC director-general Kevin Hawkins said: 'These figures mask wide disparities between product categories. Higher than expected overall growth has been achieved by heavy discounting of non-food goods. Non-food figures were also boosted by the comparison with relatively weak growth a year ago.'
KPMG head of retail Helen Dickinson said: 'Given comments by many retailers over the past few weeks, these may appear a slightly surprising set of results. But they mask a complete reversal of the trend prevalent for many months - food and drink was not the driving force behind them. This sector had strong comparatives to beat, given the boost to sales last year during the football World Cup and hence was one of the worst performing sectors in June.'
In the three months to June, like-for-like sales growth fell to 2.5 per cent, from 2.8 per cent in the three months to May and total sales growth dropped to 4.6 per cent, from 5 per cent in the three months to May.