October delivered the worst retail sales growth for nearly a year, dampening the revival in trading recorded in September.
Revenues fell 0.1% on a like-for-like basis against October last year, when they were down 0.6%, while total retail sales edged up 1.1% against a 1.5% rise in the same period last year, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.
Excluding Easter it was the lowest growth in total sales since November 2011, hitting all product categories. Online sales were also affected as growth slowed to 7.3% against last year’s 12.1%. The last three months include the two weakest growth rates for online recorded in four years.
BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said the performance across the board was a reminder of the difficult economic environment retailers are trading in despite the economy now officially emerging out of recession.
He added: “Half-term fell later this year, so lower footfall translated into patchy performances across the categories.
“This underwhelming showing means there’s all to play for as Christmas approaches.”
The three-month average, which records figures from August to October, showed food was more resilient than non-food, increasing 3.4% in total against non-food’s 1.3% advance, but the BRC said performance was “stagnant” once inflation has been stripped out.
In the month, shoppers bought seasonal food such as fresh soups, hot beverages and slow cooked meat. Alcohol also sold well as the temperature dropped in the month. Cake mixes, decorations and eggs got a boost from The Great British Bake Off, while Halloween drove pumpkin sales.
Clothing performed relatively well as cooler weather helped shift winter and casual garments.
KPMG head of retail David McCorquodale said: “October’s sales figures were like a disappointing firework – full of promise initially but eventually fizzing out with a whimper.
“Like a rocket, clothing and footwear sales soared into double-digit, like-for-like growth in the first week but then faded in the latter half of the month, showing that consumers may have bought into autumn/winter collections but are still too nervous to fill their wardrobes with them.
“The recession may officially be over but it will take a little longer for consumers to feel they can spend freely again. Retailers are holding less stock than a year ago and may choose to be cautious with pre-Christmas sales in order to protect margins. However, the disappointing sales figures for October indicate that winning share of the Christmas wallet will be just as competitive over the next two months as it was last year.”