The Olympics and warmer weather has stolen the attention of shoppers in August as retail sales in the UK drop to the lowest level in two years.

As consumers focused more on their TV screens rather than browsing, overall sales declined 0.3% last month, against a 0.1% increase in the same period in 2015, in the weakest performance since September 2014, excluding Easter distortions.

On a three-month basis, total UK retail sales rose 0.6% driven by lower footfall due to the warmer weather, half the rate of the 12-month average of 1.2%.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive, British Retail Consortium said: "A month of extraordinary achievement for Team GB certainly produced a feel-good effect and consumer confidence was up on July, but that generally didn't translate into extra sales.

“Consumers were enticed towards leisure and outdoor activities rather than shopping, although Food did post its strongest performance in more than two years; fuelled by demand for picnic, barbeque supplies and celebratory drinks”.

Total food sales increased 0.9%, its best level since December 2013 excluding Easter distortions, comfortably ahead of the 12-month average of 0.3%. However, Total Non-Food sales rose 0.4%, a significantly slower rate than the 12-month average of 1.9%.

Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of food and grocery experts IGD said: “Although 51% of shoppers feel that the next 12 months is a time for them to play it safe in financial terms, this does not seem to be curtailing overall spending on everyday items like food and groceries."

Online retail sales also saw a poor performance last month, as sales of non-food products grew at the slowest increase rate since March 2013 at 6.2%, well below the 12-month average of 11.1%.

However, over the three months to August, online sales of non-food products grew 8.8% year-on-year and August is the eighth consecutive months that the Non-Food online penetration rate has remained above 20%, at 20.2%.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive, British Retail Consortium said: "The fact that online continues to be the key driver of sales growth is both testament to and a driver of innovation in the industry.

“Despite continuing uncertainty and swings in consumer confidence since the referendum retailers continue to invest in optimising their digital platforms, which have already become an integral part of the customer journey."

Sales of women’s fashions performed particularly poorly, despite widespread promotions, as the sunshine deterred shoppers from browsing the new autumn collections.

David McCorquodale, head of retail, KPMG said: "Despite this, jewellery sales continued to benefit from international shoppers taking advantage of the weaker pound. Whilst for those at home, some of whom may have opted for a staycation given the exchange rate, the warmer weather put wine and barbeques firmly on the menu – much to the delight of food and drinks sellers”.

"With the Bank holiday weekend and 'back to school' sales largely falling in next month's figures, it's unsurprising that children's fashion and footwear haven't yet experienced an uplift. Given the volatility of retail sales in the past few months, no doubt retailers will be hoping for a smoother ride in the lead up to Christmas."