There was further bad news for the retail environment yesterday - after it was revealed the Olympics had done little to boost trade and there had been an increase in shops lying empty.

Putting it bluntly, Stephen Robertson, director general,  British Retail Consortium, said: “There’s no evidence here of any Olympic boost to retail sales overall. August saw the worst sales growth this year.”

There was a mild boost to food sales in the form of party food and drink, but the net effect of the Games was minimal as lower footfall in London was offset by a better performance in the rest of the country.

The consortium’s latest sales data claimed UK retail sales values were down by 0.4% on a like-for-like basis from August 2011, when they were down 0.6% on the preceding year.

Robertson added: ““Hot weather and the Olympics did help sales of party food and drink but that was more than offset by a really weak performance for non-food goods.

“It’s clear people were absorbed by the magnificent Olympics and had little interest in shopping, especially for major items. Usually-reliable online sales suffered, putting in the worst sales growth since we started the measure four years ago. Some retailers told us online activity was particularly thin in the evenings. If people weren’t watching television they were more likely to be following the sport on PCs and mobile devices than shopping.

“As summer gives way to the all-important Christmas run-up, retailers will be hoping sales that didn’t happen in August have been postponed and not lost entirely.”

Elsewhere, the Local Data Company said that on average 14.6% of shops were now empty units in Britain.

The North West of England was the worst performing region overall, with a 20.1% vacancy rate, according to LDC.

London, which saw the proportion of vacant shops fall to 10.1% in the first half of the year from 10.7% in the last six months of 2011, was the only region to report a drop in the number of empty shops.

LDC, whose findings are based on visits to 145,000 shops between January and June this year, found retail parks had the lowest overall vacancy rate, at just 8.1%.