Retail sales growth picked up last month thanks to sharp increases in food prices, but consumer caution continues to hamper the high street, according to a report.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said like-for-like sales rose 0.8% by value in October - up from 0.5% in September.
However, the increase was largely driven by higher food price inflation and non-food sales failed to make headway over the month.
Clothing sales fell for the first time in almost a year, with shoppers wary of committing to large purchases, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.
This lack of consumer confidence also continued to hit sales of “big ticket” items, while even fast-growing mail order and internet sales growth pulled back after a strong September, up 12.8% last month.
The BRC said there was some optimism for Christmas as sales began to improve during the second half of October.
Helen Dickinson, head of retail for KPMG, said: “Most retailers are not expecting a record-breaking Christmas this year but will be hoping that demand picks up a bit over the coming weeks and are quietly hopeful that this may be the case given that the second half of October was stronger than the first.
“A level of clarity following the Spending Review combined with the growing Halloween spend contributed to this.”
A separate report from Deloitte predicted Britons would not cut back on their spending for the festive season, forecasting a 1% rise in the value of retail sales.
This would take the value of sales in December to more than £37 billion in what would be a resilient performance for the retail sector, according to Deloitte.
It found 71% of 2,000 UK consumers surveyed planned to spend the same or more than last year on gifts, while 76% would do likewise with food and drink.
Deloitte warned 2011 would be far tougher, with sales unlikely to see any growth next year.
A third of those polled said they feared their financial position would worsen next year and 76% said they were prepared to cut back spend on household goods and clothing.