Retail Sales Monitor: UK like-for-like retail sales slipped 2.6 per cent in November, and total sales fell for a second consecutive month for the first time since records began in 1995.

The Retail Sales Monitor, conducted by British Retail Consortium and KPMG, showed total sales slid 0.4 per cent in November while like-for-likes have now fallen in eight out of the last nine months as extensive discounting failed to lure in shoppers.

Like-for-likes dropped 2.1 per cent in the three months to the end of November, while total sales climbed 0.1 per cent in the period.

Food and drink was the only sector to show any growth in November. Clothing, footwear, furniture and big ticket-homewares fell further on last month figures.

Non-food non-store sales, which include transactions via the internet, mail order or telesales, climbed 9.5 per cent in November, which was a slowing of growth on October’s figures, which came in at 16.6 per cent.

BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said: “The numbers speak for themselves – these are clearly tough times. Retailers will be hoping that customers have been putting off Christmas shopping - not cancelling it.

“With money tight at the moment, shoppers can take advantage of the extraordinary levels of deals, offers and promotions. The recent VAT and interest rate cuts may also provide some stimulation.”

KPMG head of retail Helen Dickinson said: “There is little doubt that Christmas will arrive late for many retailers, leaving them with a very nerve-wracking couple of weeks to come.

"It's possible that November's figures have been negatively impacted by consumers delaying purchases in the last week of the month following the VAT announcement, while they waited for the change to be implemented.