Overall sales rose 3.7 per cent, according to the British Retail Consortium, representing a like-for-like fall of 0.2 per cent. The figure is an improvement on the 0.8 per cent like-for-like fall reported for September and better than that expected by many analysts.
The figures have given retailers a glimmer of hope ahead of crucial Christmas trading. BRC director-general Kevin Hawkins said: 'Another slight improvement in like-for-like sales is very welcome, especially considering the downturn trend during the first half of this year. However, we are still in negative territory. Many stores are relying on discounts and promotions to attract value-conscious consumers and unusually mild weather hasn't helped clothing retailers. Hopefully, the crucial weeks leading up to Christmas will bring stronger growth.'
However, the overall picture remains gloomy. 'Not a very encouraging outlook,' said Richard Ratner of Seymour Pierce. 'Post the January Sales, the outlook looks just as bleak going forward.'
Clothing and footwear showed sales declines because of mild weather. Autumn winter ranges fared worst, with thick chunky knits and coats proving too warm. However, young fashion appeared to avoid the downturn, with strong high street trends such as skinny jeans performing well.
Footwear trading worsened, with the back-to-school boost struggling to make an impact on sales. Food and drink sales continued to buck the trend and, although product categories were slightly distorted by the weather, with salad and ice cream selling in October, Halloween treats did well.
Electricals, DIY and gardening sales struggled, suffering from the housing market slowdown and sales of household furnishings were also poor. Vitamins and cold remedies showed gains in the beauty and chemist category, mostly because of promotions and discounts, but sales were fairly flat overall.
To view the BRC's Retail Sales Monitor in full, visit our Market Data section.