Retail sales rose 1% like-for-like in August and 2.8% in total, the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor showed.

Although the year-on-year performance was better than in July, it compared with a very weak August 2009 and sales were often promotionally driven.

Back-to-school buying helped childrenswear sales but clothing retailers had mixed experience overall, despite a month-on-month pick-up. Furniture sales were below their year-earlier level as consumers remained cautious about big-ticket spending in the light of economic uncertainty.

Food sales growth slowed “a little” but internet, mail order, and phone sales climbed 17.8%.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “The good news is sales are still growing but anxiety about job cuts and tax rises is putting people off making major spending commitments.

“With the Government about to detail its cuts and a VAT rise in prospect, retailers will be hoping consumer confidence doesn’t slip over the next few months.”

KPMG head of retail Helen Dickinson said: “Overall sales performance deteriorated marginally as the month progressed, driven by a slowing in food, but all other sectors continued to show high levels of volatility.

On a three month basis, food like-for-likes rose 1.8% and non-food 0.3%, giving a 0.9% increase for the sector.