A 'Black Friday' shopping surge helped retailers enjoy their best November sales growth in five years, offering hope for the key pre-Christmas period.
Like-for-like sales grew 0.9% in November compared to a year earlier, recovering from a flat start to the autumn, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) sales monitor with KPMG.
The figure was an improvement on a flat performance in October and a 2.1% decline in September.
But it still meant sales for the three-month period were down 0.5%, dragged lower by the struggling food sector as supermarkets were squeezed by a price war.
The November increase across the retail sector was the best monthly sales rise since August and the best November year-on-year growth since 2009.
Household appliances were the best performing category as promotions on items such as televisions bumped up sales on Black Friday at the end of the month, prompting chaotic scenes as shoppers flocked to stores.
Clothing was the worst performing area, despite a boost from Black Friday promotions, with milder-than-usual weather conditions still hampering demand for hats, gloves and knitwear.
Food sales fell year-on-year for the seventh month in a row, though the decline decelerated, the report said.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: "The huge demand for bargain TVs and other household appliances on Black Friday, whether for personal use or as presents, meant that electricals were the stand-out category in terms of sales growth.
"However, retailers also took advantage of the increased footfall generated by Black Friday to sell clothing, effectively bringing forward the start of Christmas sales reductions of autumn/winter stock.
"That being said, customers also bought full-priced items and showed interest in premium ranges, particularly in food, and retailers who didn't discount for Black Friday also saw increased sales.
"These are encouraging signs in the run-up to Christmas when consumers will likely want to push the boat out even more," he added.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: "Consumers were reluctant to spend too much, too soon, until a record-breaking Black Friday helped to kick-start festive spending."
He said fashion and footwear retailers had used the occasion to recover lost ground though had to surrender profit margin.
"Sales of electrical goods were strong all month and positively rocketed with Black Friday offers.
"Sadly some retailers fell short of the mark, with websites crashing under the pressure of shoppers hunting for a bargain. Resolving these issues must be a priority: consumers go online to avoid queues - not join them."