Retailers are in a "state of nervousness" amid signs that shoppers are holding off on Christmas purchases in the hope of bargains in the coming weeks, an industry report has said.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said UK retail sales were 0.4% higher last month on a like-for-like basis than a year ago, but the figures were flattered by weak comparisons with last year, when sales dropped 1.6%.
Retailers had been hoping for stronger November trading after a battering the previous month when retail sales volumes dropped 0.8% month-on-month, amid declining consumer confidence and rising inflation.
But the BRC quoted several toy retailers as saying that Christmas shopping was starting later this year, while online sales also delivered their third worst performance of the year.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at BRC's survey partner KPMG, said November had been a cautious month of "wait and see".
He said: "It appears that consumers know they have to spend before Christmas, but are holding off for as long as they can to see if there might be bargains available in the next few weeks."
He said retailers would enter December in a "state of nervousness", adding: "Pricing throughout the month and strategic promotions will be fundamental in a key month." But the BRC said tablet computers were a strong driver of growth in the electrical goods market in November, which also benefited as people bought cooking items ahead of Christmas.
Clothing sales were boosted by the fashion for all-in-one pyjamas, known as "onesies". Singers Rihanna and Robbie Williams were among the celebrities who have stepped out in their own versions of the adult rompersuits.
The colder weather helped boost winter clothing ranges and boots. But the BRC said furniture and flooring continued to be plagued by a "lack of fluidity" in the housing market.
Food sales faded throughout the month but the launch of festive Christmas adverts helped boost sales of Christmas crackers and confectionery.