By Daniel Hunter

Official retail figures, released today (Thursday) by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), confirm that October saw the worst sales growth this year, which is deeply worrying this close to Christmas.

Excluding fuel, the ONS numbers show the total value of sales (not seasonally adjusted) was up 1.8 per cent in October compared with a year ago. In September the growth rate was 3.2 per cent.

The October figure is in fact the lowest sales growth rate since March 2011 excluding April (which was hit by this year's earlier Easter). This is a similar trend to the BRC's own figures, released last week, which showed a sharp fall in non-food retail sales, while growth in food sales also declined. The hardest-hit areas were big-ticket and non-essential goods.

"This is a really dispiriting result so close to Christmas. September's slight upturn in sales offered retailers mild cause for cheer, but it was frustratingly short-lived," British Retail Consortium Director General, Stephen Robertson, said.

"Consumer confidence dropped to a six-month low in October and this has led to sales growth almost grinding to a halt at a critical point. With Christmas fast approaching, retailers will be hoping that the festive feelgood factor translates into a much stronger showing next time."

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