Retail sales continued to recover in August, but remain well down on an annual basis as the country recovers from lockdown.

The BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor for August, showed a further decline in like for like retail sales of 4.7% year on year.

However, on a total basis, sales increased by 3.9% in August, which is the best growth since May 2018, excluding Easter distortions.

Over the three months to August, in-store sales of non-food items declined 17.8% on a total and 8.5% on a like-for-like basis.

While over the same period food sales increased 6.3% on a like-for-like basis and 5.9% on a total basis.

Non-food retail sales increased by 7.7% on a like-for-like basis and 1.4% on a total basis over the same three month period.

BRC chief exec Helen Dickinson commented: “Despite another month of growth in August, retail sales remain down overall since the start of the pandemic.

“Lockdown appears to have permanently changed some consumers’ shopping habits, with online sales continuing to boom despite shops reopening in June. Meanwhile, city centre retailers continue to be devastated by low footfall and poor sales, as office workers stayed away for yet another month.

“Many retailers are continuing to struggle, particularly those in clothing, footwear and beauty, that are reliant on high footfall locations. Unless businesses and government can successfully persuade office workers back into city and town centres, some high street retailers will be unable to afford their fixed costs. Government will need to act fast or September will see more shops close and more job losses realised.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, added: “The retail sector continued to show promising signs of recovery in August, with like-for-like retail sales up 4.7% compared to last year. Whilst welcome news, the coming months are far from problem free, with economic uncertainties – including the unwinding of the furlough scheme – likely to leave many consumers thinking carefully about their spending priorities.

IGD CEO Susan Barratt added: “Following further easing of lockdown restrictions, consumer spending on food continues to return to more usual patterns. Grocery sales put in a solid performance compared to August 2019, despite a much cooler summer bank holiday at the end of the month for English and Welsh shoppers. The ongoing normalisation of consumer spending has also been helped by the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which gave the out-of-home sector a significant and much-needed boost.

“The Eat Out to Help Out scheme and the holiday season helped IGD’s Shopper Confidence Index remain stable. However, shoppers have varying experiences and confidence is more subdued among lower socio-economic groups and younger shoppers (aged 18-34), with these consumers traditionally impacted more during an economic downturn.”