Retail sales perked up across the board between August and September, rising by 0.7 per cent in terms of volume and going some way to allaying shopkeepers' fears that consumer demand was stalling ahead of the Christmas selling season.
All retail activity shared in the recovery except "non-store" sales, where mail order companies suffered a setback.
Even so, over the latest three months sales have grown by only 0.4 per cent from April/June to a level one per cent ahead of the same months last year - the lowest year- on- year growth since January 1996.
In terms of value, the numbers reflect sustained pressure on shop prices. National Statistics said they were on average 0.9 per cent lower than in September last year.
This September's sales, put at £22.8 million by NS, were 0.1 per cent short of the value recorded a year earlier.
Over the three months there was still a 0.2 per cent gain in terms of value on the year, but that was the lowest growth since comparable records began.
NS also revised August's sales figures to growth of 0.2 per cent in sales from last month's flat reading.
Retailers have complained relentlessly in recent weeks that they are facing some of the toughest trading conditions in years as consumers grapple with soaring petrol and fuel bills.
Last month food shops continued to set the pace with volumes up 2.1 per cent year on year in the latest three months - still less than at any time since February, 1999.
At the opposite extreme, shops specialising in household goods, suffering from the slow housing market, saw their three-months' volumes drop by 2.4 per cent from the same months last year.