By Marcus Leach

Official data has shown that retail sales in September rose 0.6% compared with a 0.1% fall in August.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that consumers returned to the shops after an August fall that some blamed on the Olympics.

In comparison with September 2011, the year-on-year figures show sales up 2.5%.

"Sales were boosted as consumers put off purchases of school uniforms until early September and that new winter collections had increased sales," the ONS said.

Angus McCarey, UK Retail Director for eBay, said that the figures show there are still challenges ahead for the sector.

“Today’s figures show that it continues to be a challenging time for retailers," he said.

"However, technology is changing the way consumers shop and has the potential to provide a valuable lifeline to the retail sector. eBay research shows that UK retailers could be missing out on up to £860m by failing to harness the potential of technologies such as interactive TV, augmented reality and in-store technologies to deliver an enhanced shopping experience.

"Previously, consumers viewed online and offline shopping as distinct, but that’s no longer the case. Today they don’t see a channel, but a brand. Retailers who embrace these technologies to deliver an integrated and seamless multi-channel shopping experience will be the ones who survive, and ultimately, thrive.”

Meanwhile British Retail Consortium Director Economist, Richard Lim, said that despite conditions still being tough for retailers, there is cause for cautious optimism.

"Times remain very tough, but retailers will be cautiously optimistic that this tentative boost builds during the crucial countdown to Christmas," he said.

"Customers are understandably still cautious due to continuing pressures on household budgets, but the signs are that they started to acclimatise to economic difficulties in September and made purchases which may have been postponed over the summer."

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