UK like-for-like retail sales slipped 0.6% in October as growth in food sales slowed and non food sales fell. Total sales were up 1.5%.

According to the British Retail Consortium-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, big-ticket items suffered the most last month.

Clothing and footwear were also hit, by the “unseasonably mild weather” with sales of winter coats, jackets and heavier knitwear hit hardest.

Homewares “remained tough and often deal-driven”.

Non-food non-store sales growth picked up a little in October after falling back in September. Sales were 11.5% up on a year ago, more than the 10.1% rise in September.

The BRC said uncertainty around the economy “continued to make shoppers careful”, giving priority to essentials over discretionary items.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said the figures were “worrying” so close to Christmas with homewares and electricals also suffering against October 2010 numbers.

Robertson said: “Which part of the wave we’re riding varies from month to month but the water is consistently chilly. For a fifth month, total sales growth continues its strangely regular flip-flopping between 2.5 and 1.5 per cent. But, the year-to-date figure, which smooths out these minor moves, is unchanged from the previous month. This is evidence of the basic weakness of consumer confidence and demand.”

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, said: “One constant remains: to whatever extent sales are being made, margins and hence profits are being impacted to stimulate demand as retailers strive to cope with the new reality.

“The success of the Christmas season for retailers hangs in the balance as October’s results do not set a strong foundation.”