The football European Championship and England’s run to the final helped retail sales increase by 0.5% in June, according to official figures.
A rise in food and drink sales last month, which many retailers credited to the Euros, offset a fall in household goods and furniture sales to push the overall level of sales above City expectations of a 0.4% rise.
The Office for National Statistics said supermarkets and other high street retailers reported a 4.2% increase in sales of food and drink while the sales of household goods, clothing and furniture fell by 1.7%.
The opening up of Britain’s economy also played a part as people travelled more extensively, especially by car. Sales of petrol and diesel rose by 2.3% but remained slightly below pre-pandemic levels.
Since the pandemic began and the first lockdown sent retail sales spiralling downwards, the sector has recovered to 9% above its pre-pandemic level.
After a 1.3% fall in sales across the retail sector in May, analysts said the sector would be hoping that June signalled the beginning of a more consistent run of sales increases.
In May there was a switch away from spending on retail to eating in restaurants as the lockdown rules eased and more people ventured outdoors.
But with many shops forced to close in recent weeks with staff self-isolating and others suffering shortages of stock due to the “pingdemic”, analysts warned the increase could be shortlived.
Aled Patchett, the head of retail and consumer goods at Lloyds Bank, said: “Retailers will be hoping June marked the start of the turnaround they have been hoping for.
“Despite a delay in the gradual unlocking of the UK, Euro 2020 proved a boon to the hospitality sector and those selling beer, BBQs and burgers were best-placed to reap the rewards, something welcomed by bricks-and-mortar stores and pubs alike.”
But he warned the “pingdemic” and an increase in the number of people self-isolating this month combined with the prospect of rising inflation could dampen what should mark “a long hot summer of recovery”.
Lynda Petherick, the head of retail at the consultancy Accenture UK, said: “The question now for retailers of all sizes will be whether this run can continue in the face of fresh challenges.
“With the long-anticipated ‘freedom day’ finally arriving this week, retailers are grappling with high numbers of staff self-isolating and issues with reduced stock, with some stores operating on reduced hours or even closing for periods of time. These are all challenges which could impact July’s figures.”