Business

UK retail sales boosted by July heatwave

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Media captionThe figures have given confidence to the High Street, as Simon Gompertz reports

Retail sales enjoyed their fastest July growth in seven years, thanks to the month's heatwave, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

On a like-for-like basis, the BRC said sales had been up 2.2% compared with last year, as consumers rushed out to buy swimwear, sandals, sun cream, beer and barbecue foods.

July was the third successive month of improving figures.

Retail sales had a dismal April, after being hit by the cold start to spring.

The July figures are the best monthly set since the prolonged heatwave in 2006.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, which compiled the figures, said: "July was a golden month for retail sales and marks a return to form for British retailers.

"Hopefully this uptick in sales is another indication that the UK economy has turned the corner towards growth."

Wimbledon victory

The BRC said it had been a "very solid" sales performance driven by the warm weather as well as deep discounts and offers.

It said that the summer had seen the return of a "feel-good factor", spawned by a series of sporting triumphs, including Andy Murray's Wimbledon victory and the start of the Ashes series, as well as the arrival of the royal baby.

Online sales grew 7.9%, which is relatively slow and illustrates the power the weather can have in moving people out from behind their computers and back into the shops.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: "While we know that the picture is still variable and the High Street in particular continues to face considerable challenges, these positive results will be welcomed in town centres around the country that depend so much on retailers performing well."

Food and drink experienced the best sales growth since November 2009, and health and beauty products also saw a jump on the back of higher sales of sun creams and hay-fever remedies.

On the downside, sales of books were significantly lower in July when compared with a year earlier. The BRC said this was largely down to the absence of a blockbuster - last year's figures were boosted by the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Sales of furniture, flooring and home textiles also fell.

The heatwave was also bad news for High Street baking chain Greggs. The company said the warm weather had contributed to a 3.2% fall in like-for-like sales in the five weeks to 3 August.

This was one of the factors behind Greggs saying that its profits this year were now likely to be £3m lower than previously expected.