Retail sales growth was flat month on month in September, the Office of National Statistics reported. The findings confounded expectations of a rise.

The value of sales was up 1.8% year on year, however, and volume over the same period rose 2.4%.

Food stores notched up 4.5% value growth year on year but non-food reatilers suffered a 1.6% decline. Household goods was down 1.8% and fashion and footwear recorded a 1.1% fall.

Clothing and shoe specialists’ sales volume rose 5.3% year on year, when predominantly non-food stores’ rose 1.1%. Households goods specialists’ volumes fell year on year. Food stores’ volumes advanced 2.8%.

The value of sales in the non-store retailing and repair category – which includes online – rose 10.4% and volume was 11.7% up year on year.

Retail prices are estimated to have been 0.5% lower last month than in September 2008.

Barclays Commercial Bank head of retail and wholesale Richard Lowe said: “The figures come as a bit of a surprise since anecdotal evidence had been a little more upbeat.”

But he added: “Trading habits adopted this year have ensured well managed stock levels and, with the prospect of increased sales in the build-up to Christmas, businesses look well placed to maximise their sales potential.”