British retail sales rose in September as Britons bought the new winter clothing collections and school uniforms, data showed on Thursday, raising chances that consumers may help keep the economy on track for recovery.
Sales volumes including automotive fuel rose 0.6 percent last month, more than making up a 0.1 percent dip in August, the Office for National Statistics said. Economists had forecast an increase of 0.4 percent on the month.
Retail sales were 2.5 percent higher than in September 2011, also a stronger increase than forecast.
In the months between July and September, retail sales were 1.0 percent higher than in the previous three months, posting the strongest quarterly rise since the second quarter of 2010.
The increase will add to views that Britain posted solid growth in the third quarter and exit recession after three consecutive quarters of contraction.
Britons have been suffering the worst squeeze in income for over 30 years on the back of soaring food and fuel prices, higher taxes and slow wage rises, and many cut back on non-essential spending.
Retailers reported that families had pushed back the purchase of school uniforms into September and many people bought the new winter collection, the ONS said.
Clothing and footwear sales rose 2.0 percent on the month.
Retail sales excluding fuel also increased 0.6 percent on the month and were 2.9 percent higher than in September 2011, also ahead of economists' forecasts.
A drop in inflation to a near 3-year low at 2.2 percent in September has fuelled hopes that the squeeze is easing and the rise in employment may also help Britons gain confidence to spend more.
In a potentially worrying sign for consumers and central bankers, annual retail price inflation -- measured by the implied deflator -- jumped to 0.7 percent in September from 0.2 percent in August, the first rise in the deflator since March.
And weak business surveys have stoked fears of a relapse as the austerity drive and the euro zone debt crisis continue to weigh on the economy.
The monthly survey by the Bank of England's regional representatives showed on Wednesday that consumer spending grew at a gradual pace, and retailers reported that promotions remained key to lure cash-strapped Britons.
The survey by business lobby CBI showed late last month that retailers expected a pick up in sales in October.
Britain's largest department store group, John Lewis has continued to post double-digit annual sales growth in the first week of October.
(Reporting by Sven Egenter and Peter Griffiths)