UK retail sales values were up 1.8% on a like-for-like basis from August 2012, the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor has found. While the growth was broad-based, the home categories were the best performers, rebounding from July. Furniture and Flooring was the best performing category, and enjoyed its best month since March 2010, as shoppers took advantage of the good deals available in that category. Retailers saw growth across all ranges, including in the living room and dining room areas, which had been underperforming over the last two years.

Home accessories also enjoyed a good month and achieved the second highest growth for the first time since April 2012. Only the lines which had benefited from an Olympic theme last year did not grow this year. House Textiles also rebounded in August, as the category benefited from the same favourable effects. All home categories had experienced very poor sales in August last year during the Olympics.

Helen Dickinson, director-general of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), says: “While these figures don’t quite reach the lofty heights of what was an exceptional July, they’re keeping the good run going and are well above the 12-month average for sales growth. Taken hand in hand with a recent uptick in consumer confidence, the signs are that many of us are feeling a little more positive about the economic outlook and responding well to good deals and new autumn collections alike.

"It’s a positive sign that consumers feel confident enough about the future to make large scale, non-essential investments in their homes"

“Non-food had an impressive month, as retailers answered the continuing cautious optimism with good ranges and appealing promotions, especially in their back-to-school offers and items for the home. The category’s performances both in-store and online measure up well against below par showings in August 2012, when shopping took second place to watching the Olympics for many of us. In contrast, it wasn’t such a golden month for food, which performed strongly in 2012 as many of us stocked up on celebratory fare for the month of sport.

“Overall, these are very encouraging figures which maintain the sense that a consumer-led recovery is tentatively taking shape.”

On a total basis, sales were up 3.6%, against a 1.6% increase in August 2012.

Online sales of non-food products in the UK grew 15% in August versus a year earlier, on a weighted basis, representing its best performance this year.

“Online sales had a strong showing in August," says Helen, "comparing well against a fairly weak July and a record low the previous year, when hearts and minds were captured more by sporting triumphs than shopping. Many of us spent less time outdoors than in July and more time browsing and buying end-of-summer offers and new autumn ranges. These factors elevated online sales growth to more positive territory well above the 12-month average.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail, KPMG, says: “This is a solid performance by retailers and demonstrates that confidence is slowly but surely returning to the UK’s high streets. Such a retail revival is particularly welcome after the disappointing sales seen last summer, when sales of non-food items ground to a halt as people were distracted by the Olympic Games.

“After suffering from some of the worst sales on record last year, furniture and flooring sales rebounded this month. It’s a positive sign that consumers feel confident enough about the future to make large scale, non-essential investments in their homes. Whether or not these investments are being powered by finance or consumers dipping into their savings remains to be seen – a debt or savings-fuelled spending bubble, of course, would not be sustainable in the long term.

“As summer fades to a close and the all-important approach to Christmas begins, retailers are turning their attention to their festive campaigns. However, if sales continue in this vein we should be optimistic that retailers will enjoy a reasonably healthy Christmas.”