THE value of UK retail sales in July was up by 1.3 per cent on the same month of last year, industry figures have shown, although the grocery sector continued to endure tough times.

The British Retail Consortium, publishing its latest monthly monitor today, highlights particular strength in furniture sales last month. However, it emphasises the weakness of food sales amid the continuing supermarket price war.

Comparing the three months to July with the same period of last year, the value of food sales in the UK was down 1.4 per cent.

Loading article content

The BRC highlights the fact that this is the steepest year-on-year fall in food sales for any three-month period since comparable records began in December 2008.

The year-on-year growth in UK retail sales value of 1.3 per cent in July marked an acceleration from a corresponding pace of increase of just 0.6 per cent in June.

Helen Dickinson, director-general of the BRC, did acknowledge that the year-on-year growth in retail sales value in July "at first glance compares unfavourably with the 2.3 per cent long-term rate over the last 12 months".

However, she added: "July last year was a tough month to beat because consumers had really responded well to high-profile exciting sporting events and, of course, the birth of the royal baby."

Edinburgh-based David McCorquodale, head of accountancy firm KPMG's UK retail sector practice, said: "The tale of two sectors continues with polarisation between food and non-food. While non-food retailers had a stellar month, surpassing even last year's record sales performance, the grocers saw sales tumble in value as their competitive pricing continued."

He added: "Fashion retailers are enjoying a better summer, even against tough comparatives that included a heatwave, royal baby and a British Wimbledon champion, and many have avoided the price-cutting sprees seen last year. There was even a bounce-back in furniture and household spend following a softening in June."

He cited a belief that the price wars in the grocery sector were "here to stay".