Pre-Christmas sales and in-store promotions helped lift UK retail sales by 0.6% in October, according to official figures released today (17 November), although unseasonably mild weather hurt sales of winter merchandise at clothing retailers.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said October sales volumes edged up 0.6% in total from the month before, and that values increased by 0.7%. Compared with October last year, retail sales volumes were 0.9% higher and value rose 5.4%.

At stores selling textile, clothing and footwear, year-on-year sales volumes fell by 1.0%. But department stores saw sales volumes rise 2.3%.

However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) says the numbers paint a much rosier picture of the state of retail than is getting from its members - and that customers are actually buying less when the impact of inflation is factored in.

"The reality is disposable incomes are down on a year ago and customers are cutting back," said BRC director general, Stephen Robertson.

"Stores are competing hard for what customer spending is available but consumers are overwhelmingly gloomy. Sales that happen come at the cost of reduced margins as retailers cut prices while facing higher business costs."