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British retail sales see 0.6% month-on-month increase

LONDON -- British retail sales increased by 0.6 percent in September, lifted by particularly strong demand for clothing, the Office for National Statistics said Thursday.

Market expectations had been for a smaller gain of 0.4 percent, according to analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires. The ONS also revised up August's figure to a fall of 0.1 percent, compared with the prior estimate of a 0.2-percent drop.

Sales in September meanwhile soared 2.5 percent compared with the same period a year earlier, exceeding forecasts for a rise of 2.2 percent.

The ONS added that the data was boosted by strong sales of school uniforms and new collections of warmer clothing.

Economists said the data boosted expectations that Britain would exit from recession in the third quarter, or three months to September, after shrinking continuously since October 2011. The first third-quarter data is due for publication next week.

“Decent retail sales growth in September and robust overall expansion in the third quarter indicates that consumer spending made an appreciable positive contribution to GDP growth,” said IHS Global Insight economist Howard Archer.

He added: “September saw a healthy 0.6-percent increase in retail sales volumes after they had apparently been hindered rather than helped overall in August by the Olympic Games.

“It is evident that online sales in particular were hit appreciably in August as people watched the Games rather than shop. It is also likely that shopping footfall in August suffered to some extent overall from the Olympics.”

Britain escaped a deep downturn in late 2009 but fell back into recession at the end of 2011. Gross domestic product shrank 0.4 percent in the second quarter, or between April and June, compared with output in the first quarter.

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