Is it a pause for breath or has consumer confidence started to go south?
Retail sales in the UK increased by 0.5 per cent on a like for like basis during October and grew by 3 per cent on a total basis, according to the British Retail Consortium.

However the organisation found that the like-for-like three month trend growth rate fell to 1.1 per cent in October from 1.5 per cent in September, providing scant relief for retailers hoping to see sales improve after the wet summer.

The BRC report, compiled in conjunction with KPMG found food sales to be steady as soups, tinned and frozen foods replaced chilled foods and some pre-Christmas speciality food sales set in. Clothing began well in October but slowed in the second half. Big ticket electricals and furniture fared less well, as consumer fears of interest rate increases kept them from signing on the dotted line. However, small ticket electrical goods, and some leisure goods such as DVDs and video games sold well.

The authors of the report acknowledged that the trading figures for the month were a disappointing sign of things to come at Christmas and may even point to a longer term faltering in consumer confidence, but BRC director general Kevin Hawkins sounded note of muted optimism.

He said: 'Some of the more downbeat predictions we've seen in the press of late could be premature. October often sees the shopper pause for breath before Christmas trading really starts. It could still go either way.'