Consumer spending in the shops roared back in June as the end of lockdown triggered a wave of pent-up demand.
Spending last month was almost 3.4pc higher than a year earlier, according to the British Retail Consortium, a sharp turnaround from the fall of almost a fifth during the peak of the pandemic in April.
The figures indicate the economy is now turning a corner and will raise hopes of a short “V-shaped” recession in which growth bounces back rapidly.
Home accessories and furniture are particularly popular after families were forced to spend more time in the house.
Over the past three months food sales have risen 3.8pc, while computers and other electronics are also a big seller with more people working from home.
Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: “June finally saw a return to growth in total sales, primarily driven by online, as a result of lockdown measures being eased and pent-up demand being released.
“Despite footfall still being well below pre-coronavirus levels, average spend was up as consumers made the most of their occasional shopping trips.
“Computing, furniture and home improvement all continued to do well as the public invested in home comforts and remote working. However, while categories such as food performed strongly, not all retailers can breathe a sigh of relief, with clothing, footwear, and health and beauty still struggling.”
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Data from Barclaycard also suggest an improvement, though not quite on the same scale.
Its numbers include wider spending such as at pubs, restaurants and cinemas which did not start reopening until July.
The figures were 14.5pc lower than a year earlier, better than the peak drop of more than a third in April but still far worse than normal.
Families remain focused on buying essentials, with spending up by 6.6pc as supermarket sales rose by more than a quarter.
Online grocery sales more than doubled as deliveries surged in popularity and shops expanded the capacity of their warehouses and vans.
Spending on fuel increased after lockdown restrictions were eased but is still a third lower than normal..
Spending on eating and drinking was still down by more than half – an improvement on the drop of over 70pc in May, but still a sign that takeaways can never fully replace the money spent on dining out.
Most families said they are avoiding the shops, with more than half planning to spend less than normal on their holidays this year. Almost one-third do not expect to go away at all.
Esme Harwood, of Barclaycard, said: “While shoppers remain understandably cautious, slowly but surely Brits are starting to spend again. Some retailers have seen really positive increases, particularly home improvement, DIY and sports and outdoor outlets, where spend has reached higher levels than before the onset of coronavirus, when spending at these stores was in decline.
“It also seems shoppers are generally reassured by retailer efforts to take precautions and make their stores safer. As lockdown eases and Brits are encouraged to enjoy summer safely, it’s clear that people are making the most of a sense of normality again, with many of us travelling to see friends and family, eating al-fresco, and taking day trips.”
Separate figures from data firm Springboard suggest that the reopening of pubs and restaurants this month failedto significantly drive up the number of people venturing out.
Footfall 10.6pc higher from July 5 to 11 than it had been the week before, but remained down 42.6pc from a year earlier.
Britain's high streets were the worst hit with annual footfall down 51.9pc, while retail parks suffered a 20.5pc drop and shopping centres were 44.4pc lower.