Contradictory figures from two leading retail sales monitors have added to the confusion over whether an economic downturn is on the cards. The latest monthly update from the British Retail Consortium and KPMG reported slowing overall retail sales figures for August, putting sales growth at 7.9%, down from 8.4% in July. But the Confederation of British Industry, which published a quarterly update this week, said annual sales volumes grew in August at the fastest rate since October 1996. It stated 68% of the 20,000 retailers surveyed said sales were up compared to last year, and 58% had placed bigger orders with suppliers than usual in August. And it said wholesalers also reported a pick up in sales in the year to August, despite expectations of a marked reduction. Business was considered to be above average for the time of year, to the greatest extent since December 1995. But the CBI report predicts slower growth in September, and both organisations warned economic gloom was affecting retail confidence. Alastair Eperon, chairman of the CBI trades panel said: "Several indicators suggest that the robust growth will not extend into September. Retailers confidence about the business situation over the next six months has dropped." And BRC chief economic advisor Bridget Rosewell said: "The increasing gloom from economic headlines may well affect confidence." The BRC/KPMG report said fresh produce had sold well throughout August, with tourist areas showing buoyant sales of chilled and snack foods. Sales of wines and spirits were strong. BRC director general Bill Moyes said said intense pressure on price, increasingly the focus of competition in sectors such as food and electrical goods, is leading to depressed margins across the sector. {{NEWS }}