LONDON (Bloomberg) — U.K. retail sales rose more than economists forecast in April as warm weather helped to boost clothing demand the most in four years.

The volume of sales including auto fuel increased 1.2 percent from March, the Office for National Statistics said in London on Thursday.

Clothing and footwear sales jumped 5.2 percent, the biggest gain since April 2011, as warmer-than-average temperatures prompted consumers to bring forward summer purchases

In the quarter through April, retail sales rose 0.7 percent from the previous three months. They have now increased for 26 straight quarters, the longest period of sustained growth since records began in 1996.

U.K. unemployment is at the lowest in seven years, while falling prices are helping to boost real incomes. That’s providing a supportive backdrop for consumer spending, which has been one of the main drivers of Britain’s economic recovery.

The ONS report showed that, from a year earlier, retail sales rose 4.7 percent in April. Excluding auto fuel, sales rose 1.2 percent on the month, exceeding economists’ forecast for a 0.2 percent gain. They were up 4.7 percent from a year earlier.

The pound extended its gain against the dollar after the data. It was up 0.6 percent at $1.56 at 9:32 a.m. London time.

The retail price deflator fell an annual 3.2 percent in April, with the deflator on fuel at minus 11.5 percent. The food-price deflator was minus 2.1 percent. Food sales by volume fell 0.1 percent in April.

Data on Tuesday showed that the U.K. inflation rate dropped below zero last month for the first time since 1960 because of a drop in food and energy costs. While price growth is likely to remain subdued for some months, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has said this will be temporary and a pickup is likely at the end of the year.


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