Gloomy retail sales information has emerged to greet Apple as it prepares to open its own-brand retail outlet on London's Regent Street this weekend.

Apple will open its first retail outlet in the UK this Saturday, presenting 2,500 free T-shirts to the first customers, with a host of special offers and more to tempt shoppers to spend money there.

These inducements may be required: London retail sales plummeted 3.3 per cent in October, year-on year. Retailers performed worse than the national average of a 0.5 per cent sales rise for a second month.

The London Retail Consortium blames the news on stronger-than-anticipated sales a year ago, the trend is threatening Christmas gloom for many retailers here. July and August this year have seen "healthy growth", the report claims.

A relative scarcity of US tourists - scared to travel as the current administration continues to engage in its war in Iraq - also contributes to the results, as does the weakening US dollar.

London Retail Consortium director, David Southwell, said: "Retail sales in Central London were very disappointing. Christmas lines started slowly for some shops, with disappointing take-up of cards, gifts and decorations."

"Consumers throughout the UK have become more cautious, but the impact of interest rate rises and fears over the housing market seem to have been exacerbated in the capital."

However, Apple being Apple, the company's London retail move may buck the trend. LRC figures show that high-tech leisure goods, "notably iPods", sold well all month.