High street sales fell flat in July despite widespread and heavy discounting by embattled retailers, figures show.
Sales narrowly missed falling into negative territory as the BDO monthly High Street Sales Tracker recorded 0% growth in overall year-on-year sales.
The dismal figures confirm a sixth successive month without growth for Britain's retailers, who have attempted to lure in shoppers with extended sales offering discounts of up to 70% in a move that will flow through to margins and profits.
Fashion sales were down 1% compared with July last year following June's poor weather, and stores were forced to sacrifice margins in a bid to shift stock and clear warehouses piled high with summer clothing, BDO said.
Homeware sales grew by 4.7% and sales of lifestyle goods rose by 1%, the sector's strongest performance in four months
Non-store sales rose by 21.7%, the strongest performance in 2016 so far, and the sector's best performance since September 2015.
In contrast to bricks and mortar sales, some fashion retailers reported double or even triple online growth in July, and a high proportion of homewares and lifestyle retailers also saw strong online sales growth.
Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO LLP, said: "Inflation is low, as is unemployment, but so is consumer confidence.
"Stores are finding it really difficult to get people to spend unless they feel they're getting a bargain, which is why we're even seeing discounts on new lines.
"The challenge for stores over the next couple of months will be to keep new stock on sale at full price for as long as possible."