The third warmest July on record drove Britons to the shops in hoardes, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
Retail sales rose at an annual rate of 3.0 per cent, beating even the more optimistic of estimates. By comparison, annual growth in June was 2.2 per cent.
The primary driver of growth was food sales, with the quantity bought in this sector rising by 2.1 per cent - the highest annual increase since April 2011. Anecdotal evidence from supermarkets suggested the warm weather, which averaged 17°C over the month, had boosted sales of food, alcohol, clothing and outdoor items.
However, the good headline figure risked masking more negative news. For example, department store sales fell by 1.6 per cent month-on-month while household goods fell by 1.3 per cent.
And economists were cautious about being too optimistic. Martin Beck of Capital Economics said that with real pay set to fall further, "the resources to sustain growth in sales still look lacking".