Retail sales saw a slight increase of 0.3% last month, according to the latest figures.
However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the late scorching weather had meant shoppers had turned their back on clothes in favour of stocking up for barbecues.
BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said that in tough times the industry should be “thankful” for the improvement in September over August’s 0.6% decline, but conditions remain weak and spending growth below inflation means customers are buying less than this time last year. Taken across the three months to the end of September, the BRC said food sales were up by 2.1%, with non-food sales down by 1.4%.
A slower start to food sales in the changeable first few weeks of the month was offset by the unseasonably warm and sunny weather in the last week.
“This drove salads, fresh fruit, barbecue foods, ice cream and soft drinks,” the BRC said. “Promotions continued to do well as shoppers remained cautious and looked for value and attractive offers.”
Total sales in September rose by 2.5% and for the quarter were 2.2% ahead of this time in 2010, but Robertson said growth has been “flipping” between 1.5% and 2.5% for four months and in the year to date like-for-like growth is “zero”.
This was backed up by analysts at Evolution Securities said the figures still represented a “volume decline”.