Retailers are adding jobs at the fastest rate since May 2002 as a feel-good factor continues to boost sales in the sector, a CBI survey revealed today.
The business lobby group said sales surged at their strongest pace since November, with c lothing, food and recreational goods in demand.
And for the first time since January 2011 sales volumes were above average for the time of year, fuelling expectations for more robust growth in September and meaning retailers are likely to take on more staff.
The CBI added that optimism over firms' overall business situation in coming months was also at its highest for three years.
The strong retail data adds to evidence that Britain's fledgling recovery is gathering pace, and follows last week's official upgrade to growth in the April to June quarter, from 0.6% to 0.7%.
The mood on the high street has been helped by warmer weather, British sporting success in tennis and cricket and the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's son, Prince George, in late July.
Barry Williams, Asda chief merchandising officer for food and chairman of the CBI survey, said: " A rise in spending is welcome news, but the bottom line is that confidence will not bounce back fully until family finances improve further."
While 22% of retailers said sales were down on a year earlier, 49% said they were higher, giving a positive balance of 27% and beating expectations.
Employment in the sector grew at its fastest pace since May 2002 and is expected to grow firmly again next month.
David Tinsley, UK economist at BNP Paribas, said: "Most sectors of the economy appear to be stepping up, with the consumer-led ones in the lead.
"From the admittedly sketchy indicators for the third quarter so far, it would be a surprise if GDP growth was not at least as good as the second quarter.
The CBI surveyed 125 firms between late July and mid-August.