British retailers saw the slowest growth in sales since the end of COVID-19 lockdowns last year as shoppers tightened their belts in the face of soaring inflation, business consultancy BDO said on Friday.
Total like-for-like retail sales increased by 3.6% in August compared with the same month last year and online sales fell by 0.6%, their first decline since March.
"September's results will show just how significant the pull-back in discretionary spending is likely to be this winter but clearly these results in August show that consumers are cutting their budgets," BDO Head of Retail Sophie Michael said.
"Consumers are deferring the purchase of big ticket items as households prioritise essential spend," Michael said.
Slower sales growth for fashion and lifestyle items raised concerns ahead of the autumn and Christmas periods, she said.
However, economists say Britain's high inflation rate - which hit 10.1% in July - now looks likely to slow after new Prime Minister Liz Truss announced a plan on Thursday to cap surging household energy prices.
Passing Of Queen Elizabeth
Elsewhere, British retail and food industry groups have issued notes of condolence on the passing of Queen Elizabeth, who died this week in Balmoral.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said, "The retail industry joins the world in mourning the passing of Her Majesty The Queen. We extend our deepest sympathies to the Royal Family. For over 70 years, The Queen has been a source of solidarity and strength for this nation. Her loss will be felt across the country and she will be greatly missed."
The Food & Drink Industry Federation said, "The Food & Drink Federation, our member companies and all those who work across our industry express our sincerest condolences to His Majesty King Charles III and The Queen Consort, and to the whole Royal Family. Queen Elizabeth dedicated her life to serving our nation, and we owe her a debt of gratitude.
Also, the chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, Mark Kent, added, “Her Majesty lived an extraordinary life. She lifted the nation during 70 years of steadfast service, anchoring our lives during a period of remarkable change. We mourn her passing and give thanks for the decades of inspiration and joy she gave to generations in communities across the country and across the Commonwealth."