Tentative optimism about downturn
Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that UK retail sales are on the up, although activity on the high street remains sluggish.

Monthly sales increased by 0.2 per cent between September and October but as the mild weather continued through the month, clothing sales gave another weak performance.

Capital Economics economist Vicky Redwood said: 'Overall, the figures provide tentative signs that the downturn on the high street is past its worst. Spending is still growing at pretty modest rates.'

The volume of sales in predominantly food stores in the latest three months increased by 0.4 per cent compared with the previous three months. In non-food stores, sales were up 1.2 per cent.

The average weekly value of retail sales in October was£4.78 billion, 0.3 per cent higher than October 2004.

Barclays business banking national director, retail and wholesale sectors Paul Clarke said: 'These figures offer a glimmer of hope to retailers as we enter the critical period before Christmas. The high street is being rewarded for its hard work over the past few months and customers seem to have been tempted by the offers available. Although retailers will welcome this uplift in volumes, profit margins will have been affected by this cost-cutting.'