UK retail sales declined for the second consecutive month in November, but the food and drink sector was the only one to show an increase, according to the latest British Retail Consortium-KPMG index.

Total UK retail sales declined by 2.6% on a like-for-like basis, from November 2007, when they had risen 1.2%. This was the first time since the survey began in 1995 that sales had declined for two consecutive months.

But, despite some slowdown from October’s growth, food sales remained positive and were the main driver of overall sales. Christmas offers on party food, gift products, champagne and sparkling wine did well, as did comfort foods, such as biscuits, pasta, soup and puddings, largely due to the wet and cold weather.

“November was a better month for food and grocery, with sales more buoyant than October,” Joanne Denney-Finch, IGD chief executive commented. “Every national newspaper has carried competitive supermarket promotions over the last few weeks as retailers jostle to attract festive shoppers into stores.

“Heavy discounting, early VAT cuts and even ‘buy-one-get-two-free’ promotions are combining to encourage people to move from one store to the next, scrutinising value. Our consumer research at IGD certainly supports the notion that people are shopping around more than ever to find the best deals as they tighten their belts.”