LONDON—British retail sales rose strongly in July, as warm weather boosted clothing sales and a weak pound lured overseas visitors to snap up watches and jewelry.
The figures, among the first pieces of hard evidence on the economy’s performance after the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union, suggest households largely shrugged off the surprise referendum result and kept spending.
The British pound rose on the news, climbing 1% against the dollar to $1.3169 after the data exceeded expectations.
The Office for National Statistics said Thursday that retail sales rose 1.4% on the month in July and were 5.9% higher than a year earlier. The official statistics agency said sales increased in all categories of stores it monitors, with sales at department stores and clothing outlets leading the gains.
The figures were much stronger than economists polled by The Wall Street Journal were predicting. Economists forecast sales would be broadly flat on the month, and 4.2% higher than July 2015.
The upbeat figures are the latest in a mixed bag of data published in the immediate aftermath of the vote. A series of surveys painted a gloomy picture of consumer sentiment and business activity, but labor market data Wednesday showed the number of people claiming out-of-work benefits fell in July. The Bank of England’s network of regional agents reported that firms weren’t planning any big changes to their hiring and investment plans for the moment.