The crucial Christmas sales period got off to a slow start as snow at the end of November disrupted trading already under pressure as a result of a jittery consumer mood.

Turnover growth in November was 2.8% in total and 0.7% like-for-like, the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor revealed. Internet mail order and phone sales rose 17.6% in the month.

On a three-month basis, food like-for-like sales rose 2.2% while non-food sales fell 0.5% giving a sector-wide uplift of 0.6%. Total sales rose 2.5% over the same period.

Food price inflation helped grocery sales in November, when clothing and footwear retailers were given a boost by the cold weather. The year on year decline in homewares widened during the month as big-ticket goods were affected by consumer uncertainty.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “Total sales growth has been weak now for eight months in a row and, given that VAT has pushed up annual inflation boosting sales, underlying volume growth is virtually zero.

“With the final run-up underway, Christmas performance is delicately poised. Overall the extreme weather has dramatically undermined sales over the last 10 days. Retailers will be hoping disruption eases so that sales lost early in the month are made up over the next couple of weeks and not lost entirely. Booming internet sales alone are unlikely to make up sales shortfalls.”