High street sales showed signs of improvement last month, up 0.6% on a like-for-like basis over July 2010.

Food sales picked up after a sluggish June, according to data from the British Retail Consortium. And sales of food and drink were up 0.9% on a like-for-like basis between May and July compared to last year.

“July's food and drink sales show some encouraging improvement, partly due to better weather towards the end of the month,” said Joanne Denney-Finch of the IGD.

“The new wave of fuel-related promotions by supermarket retailers may have succeeded in bringing forward some purchasing.”

She added: “Our latest ShopperTrack research reveals 51% of people say they are checking the price of every single item they put in their shopping basket. A similar number of shoppers are comparing prices between products and between stores.

“Food retailers, together with manufacturers, are responding with new ways to help shoppers keep to a budget via coupons, meal deals and price campaigns.”

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “This is a modest improvement on recent months but overall conditions remain very difficult for retailers.

“Food sales continue to outperform non-food, with inflation helping to drive top-line growth. But shoppers were only tempted into stores by an unprecedented number of promotions, which come at the expense of margins.”

He added: “Sales of non-food goods barely grew, though clearance events helped summer clothing in particular.”

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