LONDON: Growth in British retail sales fell slightly in August, but overall sales have risen since last year as discounts and sales promotions cut the price of non-food items to its lowest level for nearly five years, the latest industry data has revealed.

Figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) have shown the total value of retail sales was 3.6% higher in August than the same period last year, but was down on the 3.9% growth recorded in July.

The BRC also said the average price of non-food items fell by 2.3% last month, its lowest level since December 2008. The 2.5% rise in food prices was not enough to offset an overall price drop of 0.5%.

BRC director general, Helen Dickinson, told Marketing Week that discounts and promotions continued to be widespread for fashion and electrical goods and that an "abundance of good deals" on toiletries and cosmetics had brought health and beauty deflation to a near five-year high.

The survey also found rising sales of furniture, suggesting British consumers have become more confident about spending on major purchases.

The broadly positive results prompted David McCorquodale, head of retail at accountants KPMG, to congratulate retailers on their "solid performance".

He said: "This demonstrates that confidence is slowly but surely returning to the UK's high streets."

In a further sign that the British goods sector is slowly recovering, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), reported in the Financial Times, pointed to healthy sales for whisky distillers, drinks manufacturers and the pharmaceutical sector.

Sales of whisky have grown nearly a quarter since 2008 to £3.1bn while strong demand for English ale in the US, Russia and Europe has helped British brewers.

However, in a sign of continuing difficulty for traditional manufacturers, the ONS found whisky and drinks were one of only three sectors out of its 20 largest manufacturing divisions to increase their annual sales above 2008 levels.

Data sourced from Reuters, Marketing Week, Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff