Clothing and footwear sales saw double-digit like-for-like growth in the first week of the month as customers bought autumn and winter collections, but faded as they were too nervous to fill their wardrobes with them.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said October sales figures had been like a "disappointing firework - full of promise, but eventually fizzing out with a whimper" and said winning a share of the Christmas wallet over the next two months would be just as competitive as last year.
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Labour strongholds tended to remain so - apart from a major loss for the party in Dudley.
Labour suffered a "terrible" defeat in Rhondda but has already won 16 Welsh Assembly seats as it looks to record a fifth term in office.
UKIP have made further gains in the local elections in the Anglia region and the Conservatives have won back control in Peterborough.