Britons spent in the summer sun during July as retail sales lifted in value terms by 4.9% (Reuters)
A heatwave in July gave a much-needed boost for sales on Britain's struggling high streets, as consumers shelled out on BBQs, summer-wares and trips to the seaside.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), retail sales volumes rose by 3.1% on the same month a year before, excluding automotive fuel. The retail sales value also leapt in June, by 4.9%.
There was an average weekly spend of £7bn ($11bn, €8.2bn) in July, up from June's £6.8bn.
"Feedback from supermarkets suggested that the sunny weather boosted sales across a range of products including food, alcohol, clothing and outdoor items," said the ONS.
On the month, retail sales volume was up 1.1%.
Consumers may have been feeling more confident in the month after the pace of the UK's economic recovery picked up in the three months to June, with GDP growth accelerating to 0.6% from the first quarter's 0.3%.
July private industry data suggests the momentum continued to build at the start of the third quarter.
"Today's strong statistics provide further evidence that the UK economy has reached a turning point with sales growing at their fastest rate for more than two and a half years," said Ian Geddes, UK head of retail at Deloitte.
"Last month's good weather brought consumers out onto the high street and drove sales of seasonal goods. Following a difficult spring, this bounce back will provide welcome relief to a sector that has been particularly badly hit over the past five years."
Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said the "very strong" retail sales figures "demonstrate just how well retailers have responded to the recent good weather."
"By giving customers what they want to enjoy the summer and running the right promotions at the right time, they have driven good sales across the board," she said.
"These results today add to the signs we are seeing of a tentative recovery taking hold. UK retailers still face significant challenges, but the outlook is gradually improving."
Despite the positive news, consumers are still suffering from a painful decline in incomes as wages fail to rise as quickly as price inflation.
Regular pay, excluding bonuses, rose by just 1.1% in the second quarter, against consumer price inflation of 2.9% in June.
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