UK retail like-for-like sales fell 0.1% in August as shoppers stayed away from the high street due to very wet weather, casting doubt on early economic recovery hopes.

Total sales rose 2.2%, against a 1.4% rise in August 2008, according to the British Retail Consortium and KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

In the three months to August like-for-likes rose 1.1%, while total sales grew 3%.

Food continued to outperform non-food sales, with clothing and footwear weakening further. Homewares and furniture sales slipped back after July’s weather and clearance driven growth.

Sales in online, mail order and telesales increased 7.9% — the weakest rise since May.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “The stronger figures of June and July haven’t been sustained. It’s clear the deceptively good sales growth of those months was due to summer sun and price cuts – not any major revival in how customers are feeling. What spending we now have is all about value and essentials.

“In August, food sales continued to do better than non-food. After two months of growth, clothing and footwear are well down. People are holding off buying autumn and winter clothing till they actually need it.

“Most people are still very reluctant to spend on expensive household items – unless they’re sufficiently discounted. As we head into autumn, we mustn’t make too much of any positive sales growth because the comparison will be with very weak figures a year ago when total sales growth dipped below zero.”