Retail sales fell by a worse than expected 0.8% in September after a slide in demand at food stores following a barbecue summer, official figures show.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the drop-off in food sales of 1.5% was the largest decline in that sector since October 2015.
It suggested customers were tightening their belts after record summer temperatures saw households splash out on drinks and ice cream.
ONS head of retail sales Rhian Murphy said that over the longer three-month period to September, the sector had continued to grow with jewellery shops and online stores “particularly strong”.
This was despite a “stark slowdown in food sales in September, following a bumper summer”.
The 0.8% decline in retail sales reported by the ONS was worse than the 0.4% fall expected by markets.
Howard Archer, chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club, said: “September’s dip in sales reinforces suspicion that consumers may be a bit more restrained in their spending in the near-term, at least after their third-quarter splurge – as their purchasing power is still relatively limited.”
Industry figures from Kantar Worldpanel have suggested that supermarkets were among the big winners from this summer’s heatwave, with a half a billion pound boost to grocery sales.
It said £228m more was spent on alcohol, £178m on soft drinks and £74m on ice cream.
But more recent data from the British Retail Consortium and Barclaycard has suggested households have become more cautious following the summer spree.
However economic data out this week suggests some relief for family finances, with wages rising at their sharpest rate for nearly ten years and inflation dipping unexpectedly.
(c) Sky News 2018: Retail sales slide as appetite for food dips