Back-to-school clothing and computer sales gave the retail sector a boost last month, according to new figures, but experts warned anxiety over fierce Government spending cuts was still shaking consumer confidence.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said retail sales grew one per cent on a like-for-like basis in August - up from the 0.5 per cent growth seen in July - in a mixed month for the high street.
Food and drink sales growth slowed a little, after cool weather banished hopes of a summer spending boost, while clothing and footwear sales strengthened, driven by new autumn and winter ranges, the BRC said.
The latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor revealed homeware sales edged up but so-called big ticket items were still being affected by consumer uncertainty over job cuts and income prospects.
The group warned the growth figures were flattered by a dismal performance in August 2009 - the worst in the second half of that year.
Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, said: “These results are a slight improvement on last month but this better growth is compared with a very poor performance a year ago and sales were often deal-driven.
“The good news is sales are still growing but anxiety about job cuts and tax rises is putting people off making major spending commitments.”
Renewed weakness in the housing market also led to a fall in sales in the furniture and flooring sector, the BRC said.
Internet, mail order and phone sales grew in August to 17.8 per cent year-on-year growth, up from 11.3 per cent last month, and above the average for the last 12 months.
Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, warned overall sales performance had deteriorated throughout August as the month progressed.
She said: “Despite the recent improvement in consumer confidence, my view is that people remain worried about how they will personally be affected by the fiscal tightening measures.
“The impact on spending will become more apparent as we move into the higher volume autumn months.”
TV sales also slowed further in August after their World Cup boost in June, while computers and laptops were given a lift by back-to-school and college deals.