Grocery helped lift the overall retail sector to a healthy sales fillip in the year to July, but volumes in specialist food and drink slumped, the latest monthly Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Distributive Trades Survey shows.

The overall grocery sector, buoyed by the hot weather, outpaced expectations of minimal growth.

Some 48% of retailers said sales volumes were up during the month year on year, while 26% said they were down.

This gave a balance of +22% compared with expectations of just 3% in growth.

The outlook for August is positive, with 40% of retail respondents expecting sales volumes to increase, 20% to decrease, leaving a balance of +20%.

However, while general grocery sales volumes jumped 53%, sales volumes in specialist food and drink slumped by 48% in July.

The survey took place between 28 June and 14 July among 111 businesses, 57 of which were retailers, 44 wholesalers and 10 motor traders.

Anna Leach, CBI head of economic intelligence, said: “The warm summer has added a sizzle to our high streets as shoppers defied expectations, with sales growth in clothing shops and grocers driving overall performance.”

But while retailers expected a similar pace of growth next month, the factors underpinning their sales growth were more shaky.

“Although employment is strong, real incomes are falling in the wake of higher inflation, and that’s expected to feed slower consumer spending growth ahead,” added Leach.