Sales at UK clothing and footwear stores edged up in August, according to government figures released today (20 September), bucking an overall decline in the retail sector during the month.

Partly as a result of the sunshine and Olympics boosting demand for sportswear, sales at clothing, textile and footwear stores increased 1.6% in August from the previous month, while sales at sporting goods and toy retailers rose 1.5%.

The ONS said feedback suggests demand was boosted by football shirts at the start of the new season and the European Championships, as well as from increased sales as a result of the Olympics. 

Elsewhere, though, the Olympics failed to boost businesses as consumers stayed at home to watch the games.

The overall volume of retail sales (including fuel) fell by 0.2% month-on-month in August, while the amount spent was estimated to have increased by 0.2%. Compared with August last year, however, retail sales were estimated to have risen by 2.7%.

Store price inflation remained at 0.2%, with clothing one of the main sources of downward pressure.

The share of internet sales slipped during the month as consumers watched the Olympics instead of shopping online.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), however, cautions the ONS numbers "paint a surprisingly rosy picture."

Its own figures, released earlier this month, showed total sales growth of 1.6% in August, which made it the worst month this year so far.

"The strength of these figures and the improving trend is a surprise," notes BRC director general Stephen Robertson.

"Results reported to us by retailers show that, while the Olympics were spectacular, they didn't inspire the hoped-for retail rush leaving August's overall sales growth much weaker and down on July.

"The Games certainly produced a feel-good effect but generally that didn't translate into many extra sales as people found sport more enticing than shopping."

He adds: "As the vital run-up to Christmas begins, retailers are still looking for a convincing revival in consumers' confidence and willingness to spend."