Latest figures from the British Retail Consortium show that UK total retail sales were up 1.5 per cent in August, against a 2.8 per cent increase for the month in 2010.
On a like for like basis, UK retail sales values were 0.6 per cent lower than August 2010.
Food sales growth held up and was similar to July (like for like up 1.4 per cent), however, non-food sales fell further below the year-earlier level (like for like down 1.5 per cent), with footwear and homewares showing the largest declines.
"The weaker sectors are really struggling," said Helen Dickinson, head of retail, KPMG. "For non-food, the picture is disheartening with one of the worst monthly results of the year thus far - toiletries, cosmetics and menswear the only sectors showing growth.
"Promotional activity remains high to drive footfall and interest which is a delicate balancing act for retailers to ensure the volume uplift compensates for the margin losses."
Sector wise, clothing sales worsened to just below their year-earlier level, with most of the slowdown coming from women's and childrenswear. House textiles and home accessories sales both slowed further and were well down on a year ago.
Toiletries and cosmetics sales growth slowed and was disappointing for many, while book sales remained tough and well down on a year ago, particularly fiction titles.
Outdoor leisure and toys struggled in the cool weather, although back to school stationery was helped by promotions although customers left it later than usual to buy.