RETAIL sales value across the UK climbed 0.4% on a like-for-like basis in November – giving the sector a timely boost as it enters the key festive trading period.

The latest British Retail Consortium survey suggested consumers are being careful with their cash prior to their Christmas spending.

Online sales in November grew by 7.5%, although that was below the average posted across the last 12 months and the second worst performance recorded this year.

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Total sales in the month increased by 1.8% while three-month data, covering September to November, showed a 2.2% rise with food up 3% and non-food by 1.7%

Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said November had started strongly.

He said: "But sales growth slowed as November unfolded, suggesting that customers are taking care not to spend too much too soon, although must-have toy and technology items did well as people bought early so as not to be disappointed.

"Overall, the emphasis continued to be on value, with consumers looking at lower priced gifts. The same caution hit online sales, which delivered their second worst performance of the year.

"With consumers conscious that there will be a full shopping weekend immediately before Christmas, retailers are holding their nerve and counting on a last-minute rush in the crucial final weeks."

David McCorquodale, head of retail at accountancy firm KPMG, said many retailers will be nervous during December.

He said: "It appears consumers know they have to spend before Christmas but are holding off for as long as they can to see if there might be bargains available in the next few weeks.

"Retailers, meanwhile, are trying to hold firm to maintain their margins."