Retail sales leapt 3.5 per cent by volume last month as stores benefited from the warmest May on record, the ONS reported.

The rise was the biggest since the data was first compiled in 1986.

Hard-pressed fashion, footwear and textile retailers notched up a record rise of 9.2 per cent and volumes at “predominantly non-food stores” were up 3.9 per cent – the biggest surge since 1991.

Totals sales volume in the three months to May was up 5.4 per cent up year on year. The non-seasonally adjusted value of sales for the three months to May was up 4.2 per cent year on year. Sales averaged£5.3 billion a week during the month – a 7 per cent increase year on year and the biggest rise since March 2002.

A BRC spokesman said: "These figures confirm our own findings that, after a couple of miserable months, the sun gave retailers a welcome boost in early May.

"But these figures don't show a change in the fundamentals. Consumers are still under severe and mounting pressure. It remains to be seen whether they feel able to go on spending."