The British Retail Consortium survey for August showed that strong demand for discretionary consumer goods seen earlier in the summer flagged during the month, with a range of products from footwear to furniture showing a decline from June and July levels. Only food sales surged.

Overall, total sales rose 2.2% in August from July, down from rises of 3.6 and 3.2% in the two previous months.

Separately, a closely watched survey from the RICS found that rents were still falling, albeit more slowly than earlier this year, in part because fewer 'accidental landlords' are entering the market by seeking tenants for unsaleable properties.

A majority of agents surveyed by RICS reported that rents were falling rather than rising in the three months to July, by a balance of 29 per cent. However, that is far less gloomy than the 55% more agents who said rents were falling in a survey covering the three months to April.

The study coincides with official data showing rising availability of mortgage finance and modest rises in house prices over recent months, information that could encourage homeowners to sell rather than seek a tenant, RICS said.

Financial Times, The Times