Retail sales increased in July, and were ahead of expectations, the latest CBI Distributive Trades Survey has found.

According to the report, 51% of retailers said sales had increased compared to the same month last year and 18% reported a decline, resulting in a +33% balance. It is the highest balance since April 2007. The CBI had expected a +11% balance in July based on the findings of June’s survey.

Grocery, clothing and footwear and leather were the strongest sub-sectors over the month with annual summer discounts and the recent World Cup helping to drive sales of food and drink. Durable household goods retailers also benefitted from a surge in new TV sales. A balance of +45%is forecast for August. It would be the most positive balance figure since June 2004 when it reached +46%.

CBI head of economic analysis, Lai Wah, said: “High street sales have performed well this month, with growth better than retailers predicted.

“Retailers are optimistic that strong sales growth will continue next month, which is promising. We still expect the recovery in overall consumer spending to be fairly restrained, however, given concerns about the impact of public spending cuts and weak prospects for real take-home pay in the coming year.”

Meanwhile, the CBI has announced that the Distributive Trades Survey has been reclassified and re-weighted to bring the data in line with the latest UK and European Commission official classification systems. The changes affect the sub-sector listings for retailing and wholesale, including the introduction of several new retail subsectors, such as cultural goods and recreational goods. Equivalent historical figures are provided to allow comparison over time.

The CBI said that the long-term trends in the headline retail and wholesale figures under the previous classification and weights, and the new system, are very similar.