High street sales were higher than a year ago but household goods saw a slower increase, while hardware and DIY reported a decline.
The latest CBI Distributive Trades Survey found that 58% of retailers said the volume of sales rose during October, while 22% said it fell, giving a balance of 36%. While encouraging, the figure was still lower than the 47% that had been expected and also a drop on September's balance of 49%.
A balance of 20% of retailers said sales were above average for the time of year - the highest balance, said the CBI, since May 2007, when it was 21%.
However, while the clothing and footwear sub-sectors saw particularly rapid sales growth, durable household goods saw a slower increase at just 22% after four months of strong growth. Sales in the hardware and DIY sector were also lower than a year ago.
Looking to November, a balance of 43% of retailers expect a higher volume of sales than a year ago.
CBI head of economic analysis Lai Wah Co said: "High street sales have performed well again this month but sales of durable household goods have slowed noticeably, in line with more subdued housing market activity of late.
"Retailers expect sales growth to continue next month, in the run-up to Christmas. We should also see more of a boost to sales as shoppers look to beat the New Year VAT rise, but looking beyond that, broader consumer caution may temper growth in spending into 2011."