THE spectre of a no-deal Brexit haunted UK retailers in September, with total sales value down by 1.3 per cent on a year earlier, a survey reveals.

The decline in sales was broadly based, and represented the steepest year-on-year fall for any September since comparable records began in 1995, according to the survey published yesterday by the British Retail Consortium.

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September’s result was far worse than the average 0.2% year-on-year decline in total sales value over the latest 12 months.

Fears of a no-deal Brexit have mounted with the ascension of Boris Johnson to Prime Minister in July.

Mr Johnson has pledged that the UK will leave the European Union on October 31, “no matter what”.

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The BRC, publishing its latest sales figures, hammered home its view that it was crucial the UK did not leave the EU without a deal.

The grocery sector was a rare bright spot in the September sales figures. The value of food sales in September was up on a year earlier.

Within the non-food category, only the household appliance sub-sector recorded year-on-year growth in sales in September.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail for accountancy firm and BRC survey sponsor KPMG, said: “Ongoing Brexit uncertainty is clearly having a material impact on the consumer psyche, with all but one non-food category being in decline in September.”

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Mr Martin added: “Consumers are choosing to focus on the essentials, with food one of the few categories delivering growth.”

The UK retail sector felt the impact of warmer weather as well as Brexit uncertainties.

The BRC highlighted a dampening of demand for autumn clothing ranges arising from warm weather in September.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “With the spectre of a no-deal weighing increasingly on consumer purchasing decisions, it is no surprise that sales growth has once again fallen into the red.”

Ms Dickinson added: “Many consumers held off from non-essential purchases, or shopped around for the bigger discounts, while the new autumn clothing ranges suffered from the warmer September weather.”

She also highlighted weakness in growth of online sales in the non-food category, as she expressed concern over the outlook for the retail sector.

Ms Dickinson said: “The longer-term prospect continues to be bleak, with the 12-month average once again plumbing new depths at a mere 0.2%.

“Online non-food sales growth was the lowest on record, though still compared favourably to the decline in growth at physical stores.”

She added: “The ongoing political gridlock surrounding Brexit is harming both consumers and retailers. Clarity is needed over our future trading relationship with our closest neighbours, and it is vitally important that Britain does not leave the EU without a deal.”

Mr Martin highlighted his belief that retailers would have to cut prices to shift stock.

He added: “We will likely experience increased promotional activity to clear surplus stock, which doesn’t bear well for retailers desperately trying to make up for lost ground after several difficult months.”