UK retail sales rose 1.2% in August according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics today (18 September), driven by strength in clothing and footwear stores.

Between August and July, sales at textile, clothing and footwear stores rose by 4.1%, buoyed by back-to-school shopping.

For the three months from June to August, the data showed sales volume fell by 0.8%, although the ONS said this could be skewed by a record increase in the May 2008 index.

However, the ONS figures contradict other reports which suggest trade remains tough for retailers.

Last week the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said UK retail sales fell 1% on a like-for-like basis in August, the fifth month out of the last six to register a decline - and the worst sequence of figures for three years.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC said the "unexpectedly resilient" ONS figures "fail to convey how tough conditions are for customers and retailers."

He added: "Plenty of retailers would be delighted if their sales values were up nearly four per cent on a year ago.

"Yes, clothing and footwear sales growth has risen but that growth is modest and driven by discounts. It cannot be called strong and cannot explain ONS' high overall figures."