Retail sales held up quite well last month, coming in 2.6 per cent ahead of a weak October last year on a like-for-like basis, the seventh month running that they have beaten the 2005 equivalent.
The findings from the British Retail Consortium and KPMG present a distinctly rosier of retail activity than the CBI's distributive trades survey last week.
The BRC reported that like-for-like sales, excluding contributions from new stores and selling space, were up 2.6 per cent on last to October, and also higher than a 2.4 per cent gain in September.
But the BRC pointed out that October last year was a month when sales dipped by 0.2 per cent, still depressed by the London bombings.
This year's improvement was driven by food, though clothing and footwear sales were up, too. Furniture and big-ticket household items were weaker, though home textiles and smaller home accessories held their own.
"This is another month of consistent growth on the high street," said Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG.
"However, the key determinant will be driven by what happens next month in the lead-up to Christmas."
The three-month rate of growth has now slowed to 2.5 per cent like-for-like from 2.7 per cent in the three months to September.
Total sales, including new stores and space, were up five per cent year on year, as in September, but the three-month growth rate slowed to 5.2 per cent from 5.5 per cent.
"Sales growth remains on the same restrained level as in previous months and must be set against the continued inflation in the retail industry's cost base, especially wages, property and energy," said Kevin Hawkins, director general of the BRC.
"There is no sign of anything resembling a boom in consumer spending and no weakening in retail price competition. We therefore see no case for another increase in interest rates."
Howard Archer, chief UK economist at the consultants Global Insight, said the BRC's findings would ease worries about weakening consumer spending raised by the mark-edly weaker CBI survey.
"Nevertheless, considerable uncertainties remain about the future strength of consumer spending, given that the probable increase in interest rates (expected tomorrow) will add to already major headwinds facing the consumer," Mr Archer warned.
"Going forward, the Bank of England will be focusing on whether or not retailers are seeking to push through more price increases.
"If they do, it will increase the chances of interest rates rising further in 2007. However, we suspect that consumers will remain highly price conscious and penalise retailers that do markedly raise their prices. This should help keep the lid on inflation."
Ross Walker at the Royal Bank of Scotland commented: "Next week's official volumes data may suffer from any price increases (the BRC numbers are sales values), but the underlying picture is that consumers appear to be entering the crucial Christmas trading season in good spirits."