Hot weather adds sizzle to retail sales

UNUSUALLY hot weather and aggressive discounting by retailers fuelled a surge in retail sales last month, official data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed yesterday.<br /><br />Figures from the ONS revealed that total retail sales rose by 1.2 per cent in June on the previous month, putting the annual rise on a seasonally-adjusted basis at 2.9 per cent. Last month&rsquo;s hot weather meant that within predominantly non-food stores, the largest increase was in textile, clothing and footwear stores which rose by 11.3 per cent on last year.<br /><br />Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: &ldquo;Retail sales were boosted by sunshine, promotions and discounts. But the wholesale turnaround in consumer confidence that retailers are looking for remains elusive. But fundamentally it&rsquo;s still a picture of needs versus not-nows, with food retailers proving resilient while much of non-food retailing struggles.&rdquo;<br /><br />But monthly retail sales figures are volatile and analysts were cautious about calling a real end to the contraction in consumer spending. <br />Howard Archer at IHS Global Insight said: &ldquo;Consumers remain under serious pressure from sharply higher and rising unemployment, markedly reduced earnings growth and heightened debt levels.&rdquo;<br /><br />But others were more optimistic. Vicky Redwood, UK economist at Capital Economics, said: &ldquo;The good weather may have played a part, but this resilience is certainly nothing new. The big picture is still that the high street has been holding up surprisingly well since the start of the year.&rdquo;<br /><br />However, she cautions that the prospect of tax rises is looming large and households still need to pay off large amounts of debt.