The BRC said last month's rain boosted furniture sales
Retail sales rose again in July, as the wet weather lifted demand for furniture and homeware goods, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has said.
UK-wide like-for-like sales - which pulls out the impact of new store openings - increased by 1.8% last month compared with July 2008.
This was a bigger increase than the 1.4% rise reported for June.
However, the BRC cautioned that rising unemployment was preventing a wider return of consumer confidence.
Sales of furniture and homewares saw their biggest year-on-year growth in three years during July, although the BRC said this was against a very low base in July 2008, and lifted by extensive discounting.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said it appeared that the wetter weather in the second half of July turned people's attention indoors.
"There are some signs that people are using holidays to improve their homes rather than spending on going away," he said.
Food and clothing sales also continued to increase in July, the BRC added, although the rate of growth for both was slower than in June.
Overall sales via the internet and mail order were up 20% from last year, lifted by clearance discounts.
"There is a sense among some commentators that the beginning of the end of the recession is here, but rising unemployment and job loss fears will continue to hold back the widespread return of consumer confidence for some time yet," added Mr Robertson.