Retailers enjoyed their best July for seven years after the heatwave drove scorching sales of barbecue food, summer clothing and outdoor furniture in a “golden month”.
A feel-good effect from British sporting success, such as Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph and Chris Froome’s Tour de France win, also helped to set tills ringing across the high street, although furniture, flooring, homewares and house textiles chains wilted in the heat.
Total sales, including the boost from new stores, rose by 3.9 per cent last month, which was the strongest July trading since 2006, according to the British Retail Consortium and KPMG survey.
While the data will further reinforce the view that the sector is over the worst, the simple fact is that high-street sales will only truly recover when real wages rise beyond inflation.
Despite this, the heatwave helped chains post a 2.2 per cent rise in sales at stores open at least a year in July – which was the second-best performance this year.
David McCorquodale, the head of retail at KPMG, 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. Murray mania, summer sun and the arrival of the royal baby gave consumers that much needed feel-good factor, encouraging them to leave caution behind and help retailers put in a champion performance.”
The hot weather appears to have dampened online sales, which rose by just 7.9 per cent – nearly half the 15.6 per cent. This suggests that people logged off to enjoy themselves in the garden or at the beach, or increased their trips to the high street.
Helen Dickinson, the director general of the BRC, said: “This is a very solid sales performance, the second best month this year and better than we’ve seen in any July since 2006. It has been driven by the warm weather and retailers working hard to offer deep discounts and great offers to their customers, with the reduction in shop prices we reported for July translating into more generous spending in UK stores.”
She added: “Food has performed very strongly, with summer barbecue ingredients and feel-good foods doing well during a month where the Lions, Murray, Chris Froome in the Tour de France and the start of the Ashes series all contributed to the positive summer feeling. Clothing has also had a very good month, which was down to good weather spurring summer fashion buys and some good discounting.”