Britain's barbecue summer helped retail sales race ahead last month as stores enjoyed their fastest July growth since the last prolonged heatwave in 2006.
Sales were up 2.2% on a like-for-like basis compared with last year as beer and burgers together with swimwear, sun cream and sandals buoyed consumer spending. It was the third consecutive month of improvement after a fall in April when shops were hit by the freezing weather, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) figures.
The rise was attributed to the "feel good factor" fuelled by a string of sporting triumphs and the arrival of the royal baby, though deep discounting also helped reel shoppers into stores.
Meanwhile online sales growth was 7.9%, a relatively slow improvement for the burgeoning sector as the weather encouraged consumers to get out from behind their computer screens.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said it was a "very solid" sales performance driven by the warm weather as well as deep discounts and offers.
She said summer barbecue ingredients and "feel-good foods" had done well during a month when the Wimbledon winner Andy Murray, Tour de France champion Chris Froome and the start of the Ashes all contributed to the positive feeling. Clothing sales had been boosted by discounting and summer fashion buys, she added.
"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," she said.
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.
"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."
Food and drink saw the best growth performance since November 2009, with champagne, beer and other drinks as well as burgers, baps, summer fruits and ice cream all seeing significant increases. Clothing was boosted by swimwear, dresses and blouses sales in womenswear, with popular menswear items including casual jerseys and shorts.