Furniture was the best-performing product category in July, reporting its highest growth since January (excluding Easter distortions), according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

Although GfK’s Climate for Major Purchase index fell from -2 in June to -3 in July, Furniture was the fastest-growing category. It was also the greatest contributor to total sales growth. However, July’s performance was flattered by a soft comparable period in 2013. There was good demand for big-ticket clearance items.

Rebounding from a decline in June, Home Accessories experienced its highest growth since February and was the third best performing category in July, benefitting from an easy comparable period.

Meanwhile, July’s growth in House Textiles showed a significant pick-up from the previous month, and continued to be driven by good demand for lightweight bedding.

Overall, UK retail sales were down 0.3% on a like-for-like basis from July 2013, when they had increased 2.2% on the preceding year. On a total basis, sales were up 1.3%, against a 3.9% rise in July 2013. The three-month average total sales growth, 1.3%, is below the 12-month average of 2.3%.

Online sales of non-food products in the UK grew 14.9% in July versus a year earlier.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson says: “This July we have achieved overall growth of 1.3% year on year, which at first glance compares unfavourably with the 2.3% long-term rate over the last 12 months. However, July last year was a tough month to beat because consumers had really responded well to high-profile exciting sporting events and of course, the birth of the royal baby. Food experienced its deepest three-month average decline since at least December 2008, explained partly by the continuing keen price competition between supermarkets, which consumers are taking full advantage of, and record low food inflation.

“The home categories showed a pick up this month after performing less well in June – furniture reported its highest growth since January excluding Easter distortions, and home accessories and house textiles (especially lightweight bedding) all did well. Understandably, outdoor products sold well, as did overall toys and baby equipment.

“Non-food online sales continued to show strong growth, the third highest this year, driven notably by furniture, kitchen appliances, gaming and toys.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail for KPMG, adds: “The tale of two sectors continues, with polarisation between food and non-food. While non-food retailers had a stellar month, surpassing even last year’s record sales performance, the grocers saw sales tumble in value as their competitive pricing continued.

“Fashion retailers are enjoying a better summer, even against tough comparatives that included a heatwave, royal baby and a British Wimbledon champion, and many have avoided the price cutting sprees seen last year. There was even a bounce back in furniture and household spend following a softening in June."