Page last updated at 05:36 GMT, Tuesday, 9 September 2008 06:36 UK

Wet weather hits UK retail sales

Sales shoppers
Shoppers are becoming increasingly price conscious

Retailers face their worst conditions in three years with sales falling in five of the last six months, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) warns.

Like-for-like sales in August were 1% lower than a year before, the BRC said.

Damp weather followed the failure of retailers in July to attract shoppers through the use of heavy discounts.

Food and drink was the only sector to show significant sales growth, despite the chilly weather hitting salad and barbecue products.

Food retailers reported higher sales of cheaper meat products such as mince and stewing meats.

Heavy discounts

In a bid to attract consumers who have been tightening belts in the face of rising inflation there was heavy discounting across both clothing and footwear stores over the month.

Sales of DIY and gardening equipment slowed, while "big-ticket" furniture sales showed year-on-year falls for the seventh month in a row.

Between June and August, like-for-like sales were 0.8% lower than the same three-month period a year earlier.

The findings come a week after the CBI's latest distributive trade survey said retailers had endured a "summer to forget".

Last month the BRC urged the chancellor to reinstate business tax relief on empty properties in his 2009 Budget.

It also asked for other measures to revive spending, including zero tax for environmentally friendly goods.

BRC director Stephen Robertson said: "Prospects for customers and retailers are inextricably linked. Helping retailers keep prices down by cutting regulatory costs is the best way the government can assist hard-pressed customers."

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at financial services group KPMG, added: "The only good news is that the results do not show a significant and further deterioration of the trend over the previous few months, but there is no doubt August was another disappointing month for UK retail."

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