Retail like-for-like sales fell 0.6% year-on-year during June but increased 1.5% in total, helped by the early launch of Sales.

All categories with the exception of women’s clothing and footwear recorded some improvement but food sales growth slowed, the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor showed.

BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said: “Given June’s spate of shop closure announcements and weak company results, these figures are not as bad as they could have been but it shows just how tough times are when total sales growth of 1.5 per cent is regarded as not that bad.

“The higher VAT rate is making the year-on-year comparison look better than it really is, while retailers are coping with higher costs because of increased utility bills, rates and the burden of regulation.  

 “Underlying conditions are still tough but being masked by a minor revival in non-food sales driven by price cuts and clearance events starting earlier this year. 

 “The modest sales improvement has been concentrated on less expensive things - home textiles and accessories - rather than big-ticket items.” 

IGD chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch said: “June was another challenging month for food and drink retailers. Last year we had the benefit of the World Cup, in particular England playing Germany, which encouraged spending. There was no equivalent to support trading in June this year.”

On a three-month basis, food like-for-likes rose 2.6% and non-food slipped 0.6% resulting in a 0.8% improvement. In total food sales rose 5.3% and non-food 0.8% giving an overall rise of 2.7%.

Sales over the internet, phone and by mail order rose 11.5% year-on-year during June.