Retail sales values rose 1.8% on a like-for-like basis in November, in a worse-than-expected performance against a dire November last year.

The like-for-like sales rise for November compares with a 2.6% drop in November 2008, following the banking collapse.

Total sales during November rose 4.1%, versus a 0.4% drop in the same month a year ago, according to the British Retail Consortium-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

Food sales growth slowed in line with lower food price inflation. Homewares and furniture sales continued to increase during the month against larger declines a year ago.

Clothing and footwear also slowed after a rise in October. Internet, mail order and phone sales were 16.9% higher than a year ago compared with 18% in October. The slower rate of growth in November than in October was in line with the slowdown in store sales.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said the growth was not as strong as expected.  

“We would have expected much stronger growth because the comparison is with very poor results in 2008 when November was the second worst performing month of the year.

“Growth was weaker than a strong October, but it’s not as bad as it seems. A lot of this was down to the sharp fall in food inflation which continues to dampen food retailers’ sales. But non-food sales growth improved as the Christmas build-up began.  In particular, discounts and downpours boosted boot and shoe sales – while the milder weather hit clothing sales. There was continued growth in non-store non-food sales.”

He added that consumer confidence remains “fragile” and has “taken a turn for the worse”.

He said: “We’re the only major economy still in recession. Uncertainty over jobs and future tax increases and Government spending cuts is making customers more cautious. Retailers are hopeful of a better Christmas than last year’s dire performance, but it’s still all to play for.”

Helen Dickinson, KPMG head of retail, was bullish about the outlook for Christmas: “Although regaining ground lost in the early run up to Christmas is difficult, if not impossible, many retailers will be quietly confident that their performance will not be anywhere near as bad as some may have expected six months ago.“