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Poor sales figures for retailers

Britain's beleaguered retailers struggled to pick up sales last month as shoppers shunned seasonal fashion ranges amid gathering autumnal gloom in the sector.

A like-for-like rise of just 0.8% compared to a bleak period last year has left firms relying on a bumper Christmas to turn around their fortunes, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium and KPMG.

The paltry improvement during October, only slightly better than the previous month, is the latest sign of a hard autumn on the high street after a buoyant summer lifted hopes of recovery.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: "October was another difficult month for retailers, reminding us that recovery is a slow, relentless slog.

"Whilst the summer months hinted at increased consumer confidence, retailers will struggle to maintain a sustained sales recovery until wage growth outpaces price inflation."

Sales were dragged down by a drop-off in clothing, as good weather deterred purchases of autumn and winter offerings in the early part of the month - though heavy coats and warmer outfits did better later as the cold began to arrive.

Food saw declines for the second month in a row though improvements in electrical and electronic goods spurred hopes for the festive season.

Elsewhere hard-pressed households saved money on footwear - which suffered a poor performance as sensible flat shoes marched off the shelves in good numbers while more-expensive boots dug their heels in as they failed to sell.

The report said department store sales were flattered by Eid falling in October rather than November this year, drawing Middle East customers.

Mr McCorquodale said festive sales would be vital.

He said: "Christmas has always been retailers' golden goose and a good performance in the next two months will help those in the red move back to the black."

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